Storm Clean-up Schemes Cause Additional Heartache

8/11/2006

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts a very active 2006 storm season. With eight to 10 Atlantic hurricanes looming on the horizon, the Better Business Bureau reminds those who experience storm damage to take care when cleaning up.

Natural disasters can bring out the best in people, as strangers reach out to help others in need. Unfortunately, crises also bring out persons who choose to take advantage of the victims.

Some of the most common "after-disaster" scams involve home and yard repairs or clean-up. The Better Business Bureau offers the following tips to homeowners who suffer 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. Make temporary repairs if necessary.
  • For major permanent repairs, take time to shop around for contractors, get at least three competitive bids, check out references (of at least a year-old) and contact your BBB (www.bbb.org) for a report on the business.
  • Be wary of door-to-door workers who claim to have left-over repair materials from a job “down the street” or who do not have a permanent place of business.
  • 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.
  • Prepare 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. Review it carefully before signing.
  • Any promises made orally should be written into the contract, including warranties on materials or labor.
  • Never pay for all repairs in advance, and do not pay cash.
  • Review all documentation before signing on the dotted line and before making any payment.

Disaster victims should never feel forced to make a hasty decision or to choose an unknown contractor. When in doubt, contact the Better Business Bureau.

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