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Better Business Bureau ®
Start With Trust®
Western Michigan
BBB Alert: Beware of Storm Chasers
December 23, 2013

News Reports indicate that more than 200,000 customers remain without electricity statewide today.

 

The recent damage done by the ice storms brings out the best in people, as strangers reach out to help others in need. Unfortunately, the aftermath of a crisis also brings out contractors who take advantage of those who have already been victimized.

 

As a follow up, your Better Business Bureau is warning area residents affected by the recent storm to beware of storm chasers and out-of-town contractors soliciting business.

 

"It is not uncommon for out-of-town storm chasers, and un-qualified local tree cutters and home repair contractors to solicit business after ice damage like this" said Phil Catlett, President of Better Business Bureau serving Western Michigan. "Storm chasers may not have proper licensing and may offer quick fixes or make big promises which they won't deliver."

 

Your BBB offers the following tips for storm victims:

  • Start With Trust. Check out contractors and businesses at bbb.org, which contains thousands of business reviews and records of any complaints against that business.  
  • Find out if the contractor you are hiring to repair your home, garage, etc. is registered within the State of Michigan. A residential builder's or maintenance and alteration contractor's license is required when engaged in the construction, repair, alteration, or improvement of a residential structure. www.michigan.gov/lara
  • You should verify the contractor has insurance to cover the cost of any damage they may do to your property, and insurance to cover liability for any health issues related to an injury sustained while working on your property.
  • If you are hiring a tree service, while they are not required to have a special contractor's license, they are required to be registered to do business in the state of Michigan.    
  • Many municipalities require a solicitation permit if sales people go door-to-door.  Verify by contacting your local Township or Municipality. BBB suggests consumers be pro-active in selecting a contractor and not re-active to sales calls on the phone or door-to-door pitches.
  • While most roofing contractors abide by the law, be careful allowing someone you do not know inspect your roof. An unethical contractor may actually create damage to get work.
  • Try to get at least 3-4 quotes from contractors, and insist that payments be made to the company, not an individual.
  • Do not pay for the job in advance. Be wary of any contractor who demands full or half payment upfront. 
  • Resist high-pressure sales tactics such as the "good deal" you'll get only if you hire the contractor on the spot.
  • Get a written contract that specifies the price and the work to be done., the amount of liability insurance coverage maintained by the contractor, and a time frame. Require a copy of their current certificate of insurance.
  • Pay by credit card, if possible; you may have additional protection if there's a problem.
  • Check that the contractor's vehicle has signs or markings on it with the business name, phone number and license plates for your state.

 

Your BBB has previously seen out-of-state contractors setting up shop in the area trying to capture construction work caused by storm damage. BBB is warning area contractors to beware of storm chasers who are willing to pay local construction companies substantial amounts of money to use a local business's established name, reputation and phone so they can masquerade as a local business.

 

We have seen this happen in other areas of the country. After doing repairs paid by insurance companies, the out-of-state contractors left the area. Contractors who agreed to let these storm chasers use their name regret their decision once they were left holding the bag of unsatisfied customers due to bad workmanship and/or unfulfilled warranties.

 

Disaster victims should never feel forced to make a hasty decision or to choose an unknown contractor. Start With Trust. For reliable information, lists of BBB Accredited Businesses by industry and BBB Business Reviews you can trust on local businesses, visit www.bbb.org or call 616-774-8236.