In the wake of Hurricane Sally, many Gulf Coast residents are facing clean up that’s going to require professionals. Due to the rush of people in desperate need of home repairs and tree clearing services, the backlog is staggering.
It may be tempting to use whomever you first come across to help fix your home. In this post-storm frenzy, many out-of-state contractors flock to the hardest hit areas to help restore homes, yards, and lives. But be cautious. Sadly, contractors can be scam artists who prey upon desperate, vulnerable, and generally exhausted homeowners.
Below are some tips to help keep yourself, your money and your property safe!
- Stay local: Local vendors have a reputation to maintain. Find reputable contractors with solid references. Not only does this support local businesses and families, but if you have a warranty issue down the road, you will be glad you did. A warranty is only as good as the business and the people behind it. Just because they have a business card does not mean they are legitimate or easily contacted if you have issues down the road. P.O. boxes, do-it-yourself websites and homemade business cards are a dime a dozen. Asking for a drivers license and looking at the license plates are good ways to verify where the person you are dealing with is based.
- Be suspicious: Door knockers should throw a red flag. Those who are pushy and high-pressure generally have a reason for being that way. Never pay cash up-front. If a contractor tells you they are “backed by FEMA,” remember FEMA does not endorse individual contractors. Trust your gut.
- Do research: Visit bbb.org and check the company out. Look for complaints that have been filed. You should also research the company through Consumer Affairs.
- Get documentation: A copy of the contractor’s business license and certificate of insurance are a must. Then follow that up with a call to the insurance company to make sure their policy is current.
- Finalize contract: Once you have a written estimate and are confident you want to move forward with the contractor, make sure you have a contract. Never allow work to commence on your home until a contract is finalized. It must be signed by both parties and make sure all the blanks are populated.
- Insurance fraud: Never allow anyone to convince you to seek reimbursement for exaggerated damages or non-existent losses. Insurance fraud is a felony.
Do your part to avoid someone profiting from your misfortune. There are many legitimate contractors who are skilled in their line of work. While it may take some time to get the best contractors to your project, patience could save you time, money, and headache down the road.