Tyler, TX – Following any storm, BBB phones ring off the hook from consumers calling to verify the legitimacy of out-of-the-area contractors. Storm chasers and other door-to-door salespeople often peddle dubious deals that may cost homeowners thousands of dollars and create severe headaches, often requiring advance payment and making big promises on which they won’t be able to deliver.
“Victims of severe storm damage should never feel forced to make hasty decisions or choose unknown contractors,” said Mechele Agbayani Mills, President, and CEO of BBB Serving Central East Texas said. “By taking the time to do your homework and initiating contact with those you wish to do business with will help prevent headaches and protect your wallet.”
BBB offers the following advice to homeowners before hiring a contractor:
- 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. Be proactive in selecting a business and not re-active to sales solicitations.
- For major repairs, take time to shop around and get at least three estimates based on the same specifications and materials. Check out references that are 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.
- Be leery if a worker shows up on your doorstep to announce that your home is unsafe. If you are concerned about possible structural damage in your home, have an engineer, architect or building official inspect it. While most contractors abide by the law, be careful, allowing someone you do not know to inspect your home. An unethical contractor may create damage to get the work.
- Require a written contract agreement with anyone you hire. Be sure the name, address, license number, if applicable, and phone number are on the contract. Please read and understand the agreement in its entirety, and don’t sign a blank contract. You should receive a copy of the signed contract at the time of your signature.
- Clearly written proposals that are detailed and broken down into separate line items are a good sign that the contractor is being thorough and has prepared an accurate estimate.
- If one estimate seems much lower than the others and it 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 after completion.
- Hire locally whenever possible. Chances are 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.