BBB Urges Caution in Wake of Recent Storms

  
     
“Property owners will want to make repairs to their home or business as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, unscrupulous contractors or scam artists may take advantage of the post-disaster chaos to scam unsuspecting property owners out of money, or provide shoddy materials or sub-standard work,” said Kelvin Collins, President/CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving the Fall Line Corridor. “Make wise decisions and don’t let someone separate you from your hard-earned money.”
January 23, 2017

In the aftermath of this past weekend’s storms, the BBB urges the public to exercise caution when hiring a contractor to repair damages. Natural disasters can bring out the best in people; unfortunately, it also brings out con artists looking to capitalize off other’s grief.

“Property owners will want to make repairs to their home or business as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, unscrupulous contractors or scam artists may take advantage of the post-disaster chaos to scam unsuspecting property owners out of money, or provide shoddy materials or sub-standard work,” said Kelvin Collins, President/CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving the Fall Line Corridor. “Make wise decisions and don’t let someone separate you from your hard-earned money.”

Some of the most common "after-disaster" scams involve your auto, home and yard repairs or clean-up.

Your Better Business Bureau offers the following tips to homeowners who suffer auto and property damage in the wake of a natural disaster:

  • Check with your insurance company about policy coverage and specific filing requirements. Save all receipts, including those for food, temporary lodging, or other expenses that may be covered under your policy.
  • 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 pro-active in selecting a business and not reactive to sales solicitations. Make temporary repairs if necessary.
  • For major permanent repairs, take time to shop around for contractors, get competitive bids, check out references, make sure the contractor is properly licensed and check out their business review with the Better Business Bureau at bbb.org
  • 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 sales people 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.
  • Require a written contract agreement with anyone you hire. It should specify the work to be done, the materials to be used and the price breakdown for both labor and materials. Any promises made orally should be written into the contract, including warranties on materials or labor. Be sure their name, address, license number, if applicable, and phone number along with a start and end date for the work are included in contract. Read and understand the contract in its entirety and don’t sign a blank contract. A copy of the signed contract should be given to you at time of signature.
  • Once you have found a contractor, request proof of a current insurance certificate covering workman’s compensation, property damage and personal liability.
  • Insist that the contractors pull all necessary permits. Unscrupulous contractors will ask the homeowner to pull the permits because the person acquiring the permit is responsible for ensuring that the work meets local and state codes.
  • Never pay in full for all repairs in advance, and do not pay cash! While many businesses may ask for a deposit, BBB suggests that no more one-third of the job be paid up front. Be sure the contract specifies the schedule for releasing payments to the contractor.
  • Be wary if a contractor asks you to sign an estimate. Many unscrupulous contractors have you sign what you think is an estimate but in reality, is a binding contract.
  • When seeking the services of a cleaning and restoration firm, remember that flood-soaked carpets can be saved but must be professionally sanitized at the cleaning firm's plant. Any furniture that has been completely submerged in floodwater will need to be re-upholstered or refinished.
  • Thoroughly clean out mud and residual material from heating and cooling units and let the units dry out before determining whether the equipment is functional or needs repairs.

 

Disaster victims should never feel forced to make a hasty decision or to choose an unknown business.

Start With Trust! For trustworthy information, lists of BBB Accredited Businesses by industry and BBB Business Reviews on local businesses, visit bbb.org.

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ABOUT the BBB


The Better Business Bureau serving the Fall Line Corridor is a non-profit organization serving 83 counties in East Alabama, West Georgia, Southwest Georgia, Central Georgia, East Georgia and Western South Carolina. The first BBB was founded in 1912. Today, BBBs serve communities across the U.S. and Canada. Serving as the 'ethical gatepost' of our communities, BBB fosters and promotes ethical business practices and self-regulation standards that build consumer trust in the marketplace. BBB services include business reliability information, complaint resolution services and consumer and business educational information.  More information is available at bbb.org.