Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania - Summer is finally on the horizon in Western PA! The summer heat and humidity brings with it the chance for severe weather. Already this June, your Better Business Bureau has heard from homeowners who have sustained property damage from storms and are looking for information on businesses in the area that can help them quickly clean-up or fix the damage left from rain and thunderstorms. Most notably, high winds from recent storms have caused trees to topple, damaging homes and vehicles.
Within the last month, consumers have inquired with your BBB about tree servicing businesses just over 1,000 times and nearly 4,200 times for general contracting services. Connect with a company you can trust using your BBB's resources at bbb.org or by speaking with our information specialists at 877-267-5222. Consumers shouldn’t rely on hiring the first company that can make it out to their property. Researching a company using BBB's Business Reviews can help avoid hiring an unscrupulous business in which you end up unhappy with the product or service you paid for. Most contractors and tree trimmers have your best interests in mind and do want to help, but consumers should be aware there are companies and individuals that are only interested in helping themselves.
To avoid these bad actors, your BBB recommends the following actions following storm damage discovery:
Call your insurance company - Check with your insurance company immediately to inquire about policy coverage and how to file a claim.
Don't feel pressured to make an immediate hiring decision - Request bids from 2-3 companies before hiring a company to perform work at your home. It's a red flag if workers use high-pressure sales tactics or tell you that action needs to be taken now, or else! These businesses are likely trying to scare you into signing a contract for services you do not need. Research a company using BBB's Business Reviews at bbb.org for basic company information and three-year complaint history. Plus, for BBB Accredited Businesses, you can Request a Quote directly from a company's BBB Business Review!
Be alert for "storm chasers" - Scammers and shady contractors often travel through neighborhoods, going door-to-door after severe storms offering quick repairs and low prices. Most of these workers lack proper registration and do not stand behind their work. They are looking to make money and then move on to the next neighborhood or town, usually leaving homeowners unsatisfied and with no way to contact the company/individual for a refund.
Check company's insurance and registration status - Ask for a copy of insurance information from a company you wish to work with and verify they are properly registered with the PA Attorney General's Office (required by law).
Keep down payments reasonable - It's possible that the repair service will ask for a down payment. Never pay for the full amount in cash before work begins. PA law states that no more than one-third of the job be paid up front. Be sure the contract for the work specifies the schedule for releasing payments to the contractor. Make payment to the company by credit card or check made out to the company, rather than cash.
Request a written contract - Make sure you receive a copy of the work contract and that all details of the project are listed before signing. If the company makes any verbal promises (“We'll clean the yard of tree debris when we’re done”) make sure it is included in writing.
Visit our storm resources page to help guide you in the event you need assistance with clean-up or repairs following a storm.