According to the National Weather Service, approximately 20 tornadoes struck Texas and Oklahoma Monday. And although East Texans are not strangers to storm damage, Better Business Bureau (BBB) advises residents to look for storm chasers. They show up unannounced, offer to repair storm damage for a low price, require advance payment, and make big promises on which they have no intention of delivering. In addition, BBB reminds consumers to be on the lookout for shady contractors looking to take advantage of storm victims.
“Spring means thunderstorms, flash floods, and the occasional tornado in East Texas,” said Mechele Agbayani Mills, President & CEO of BBB Serving Central East Texas. “It’s also the time of year for consumers to be prepared to encounter fly-by-night repair businesses who are ready to pounce on storm victims as soon as the weather breaks.”
BBB offers the following advice to homeowners before hiring a contractor:
First, check with your insurance company about policy coverage and specific filing requirements. Save all receipts if temporary repairs are necessary.
Although you may be anxious to get things back to normal, avoid letting your emotions get the better of you. Don’t be pressured into making an immediate decision with a long-term impact. Instead, be proactive in selecting a business and not reactive to sales solicitations.
Take time to shop around and get at least three estimates based on the specifications and materials. Check out references at least one year old and verify licensing with local agencies.
Be wary of door-to-door workers who claim to have left-over materials from a job “down the street” or who do not have a permanent place of business. If salespeople go door-to-door, check to see if your community requires them to have solicitation permits.
Require a written contract agreement with anyone you hire. Be sure that the company’s name, address, license number, and phone number are in the contract. Please read and understand the contract, and never sign a blank contract. They should give you a copy of the signed contract at the time of signature.
If one estimate seems much lower than the others and sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Many fly-by-night contractors’ below-cost bids seem attractive. Still, these contracts often are uninsured and perform substantial cancellation fees, or liquidation damages are required if the homeowner decides not to use the contractor after insurance approval of the claim.
Never pay for work in full in advance. The Better Business Bureau recommends a consumer never pay more than half before the contractor starts repairs and don’t pay the remaining balance until you are satisfied with the work. A good guideline is to pay by the rule of thirds: pay one-third deposit, one-third when the job is 50% complete, and one-third once they complete the job.
Hire locally whenever possible. If the company is not from the area, they are less likely to come back and make a repair should you find something they missed.
Remember, great businesses are out there. Always look for the BBB seal; it’s the Sign of a Better BusinessSM. Start with companies you can trust by going to bbb.org. To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, please call BBB at (903)581-5704 or use BBB Scam Tracker.