Homeowners urged to research repair contractors
With the Kenow fire now contained, residents of Waterton, Pincher Creek and other southern Alberta communities are facing the long road to recovery. BBB is urging home and business owners to be on the lookout for storm-chaser scammers who prey on peoples' vulnerabilities and emotions, and to be vigilant in the coming days and weeks when hiring recovery and repair contractors.
"Unfortunately, scammers tend to come out of the woodwork after severe weather to capitalize and profit from people's vulnerability," says Mary O'Sullivan-Andersen, president and CEO of BBB Serving Southern Alberta and East Kootenay. "It's crucial that while residents are anxious to repair the damage to their homes and businesses, they take the time to ensure they're not dealing with a storm-chaser."
What is a storm-chaser?
Storm-chasers are generally out-of-town contractors who show up after weather disasters, walk door-to-door offering great deals on recovery efforts, take deposits from unwitting homeowners and then leave town - often without completing any work at all.
BBB offers the following tips to consider when hiring a contractor to help repair fire-damaged homes and businesses:
- Do your research. Check BBB before you hire a contractor and avoid businesses that come to your door with a "good deal." Check out our online BBB Business Reviews to see ratings, verified customer reviews, complaint records, when the business was established and other information.
- Get it in writing. If you can, request bids from three different contractors that include costs, timelines and warranty information. If it's an emergency, remember that the lowest bid doesn't guarantee the best deal.
- Check licensing and credentials. Check with your municipality to determine if inspections, permits or licensing is required. Contact Service Alberta for information on required provincial licensing. If the contractor can't prove their qualifications, walk away.
- Ask about equipment. Be sure the contractor has proper equipment for the job and a qualified team who knows how to operate it.
- Beware of upfront fees. If a contractor or repairman request full payment upfront, it could be a red flag. Contractors must carry a Pre-Paid Contractors License through Service Alberta to take deposits upfront.
- Close the door. If you feel a contractor is using aggressive or high-pressure sales tactics to try and close a deal, it could be a red flag. Remember, a legitimate business will not try to pressure you into making a hasty decision. If you feel uncomfortable or threatened, close the door.
- Ask about insurance. Although contractors are not required by law to carry liability insurance, it could mean you could be liable for damage to you or your neighbour's property. Also find out what your homeowner's insurance will and won't cover.
For more tips you can trust, visit bbb.org.
Leah Brownridge, Media and Corporate Communications Specialist
Better Business Bureau Serving Southern Alberta and East Kootenay
For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2016, people turned to BBB more than 167 million times for BBB Business Reviews on more than 5.2 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org. There are local,independent BBBs across the United States, Canada and Mexico, including BBB Serving Southern Alberta and East Kootenay, which was founded in 1954 and garners more than one million instances of service annually.
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