Monday, May 23, 2022

Angie’s List: Tips to Avoid Storm-Chaser Contractors

In the wake of yesterday’s tornadoes and severe weather homeowners could now be faced with another potential disaster: unscrupulous storm-chasing contractors.

Storm chasers often go from house to house looking for people who need help cleaning up storm damage, offering promises of quick repairs for cash up-front.

“If a person you don’t know comes to your door promising to help if you’ll just pay in cash, just say ‘no,’” says Angie Hicks, founder of Angie’s List, the nation’s leading provider of consumer reviews on local contractors and service companies. “Severe storms can be traumatic, and people trying to put their lives back together shouldn’t have to worry about trouble from shady contractors. With just a little research, you can find a reliable person who will get you back on the feet and keep you there.”

Roofs often take the brunt of the damage from storms, especially hail. Hail damage costs U.S. homeowners more than $1 billion in property damage each year. Only the destruction wrought by wind storms and tornadoes causes more damage, according to the National Weather Service. Be sure to know what your insurance policy covers in the event of hail damage. If you have damage, contact your agent as soon as possible.

Some storm-chasing roofing companies tell homeowners that they need their roof replaced, when it often just needs a few repairs. This is why hiring a company with a good reputation is so important, because few homeowners want to – or can – climb up on their roof and figure out what’s really needed.

“If your home suffers damage, try to get estimates from at least three licensed, local contractors with a good reputation,” Hicks said. “Understand that the best service companies are going to be the busiest, so patience is key. You might have to wait a little longer to get the work done, but you want to have it correctly the first time. You don’t want to get stuck paying for the same job to be done twice because you hired the first person to come knocking on your door offering help.”

Angie’s List: Tips to avoid shady storm chasers:

What not to do: If a stranger comes to your storm-ravaged yard offering to repair your roof, remove trees or do other major repair work for cash upfront, just say no. Chances are, he or she will take your money and disappear, leaving you with little or no recourse.

Do your research: Check Angie’s List to get some insight into local service companies. Check the status of the contractor’s bonding and liability insurance coverage too. While you might get lucky working with an independent provider who lists his truck as a permanent address, remember that you have few options if the job goes awry or the provider disappears.

Don’t cave into pressure or scare tactics: That’s a clear sign that you’re a potential scam victim.

Quality is worth the wait: When massive storms hit, tree services, plumbers, roofers and hauling companies are in high demand and the best performers are generally the busiest. Beware the company with time on its hands when every other similar company can’t even answer the phones.

Get estimates: Though your situation might seem to be one of desperation, avoid settling on the first contractor who comes along and offers to do the job. Take enough time to get at least a few different estimates on the job.

Document important information: The same holds true for the old adage to “get it in writing,” including the price, materials to be used and the timeline for completing the job. This is often the best ammunition you have if things go wrong.

Angie’s List: Tips on what to do after a storm:

Do a visual inspection: Look at your home, automobiles and other property exposed to the storm. Take a picture of any damage you find.

Call at least three reputable contractors: Get apples to apples estimates for the repairs you need.

Review your insurance policy: Ensure you know what you’re entitled to. Some insurance companies surcharge or up rate for any claim, therefore it is best to know if you have damage before you call.

If there is damage: Call your insurance agent right away to file a claim.

Check contractor credentials: Check that your contractor has a good reputation, is licensed, insured and can do the work.

Get it in writing Expect to pay a deposit for materials, but always get a contract in writing that discusses payment terms. Make sure the contract includes a termination clause, should the contractor fail to meet your guidelines. Never pay cash in advance for work.

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