Better Business Bureau Warning: Flood Victims Beware

August 22, 2014

Homeowners and businesses who suffered flood damage due to the extremely heavy rains in the area should be aware so that they do not become victims of unscrupulous contractors. 

“There will be dishonest businesses that will exploit the situation and try to scam homeowners and businesses that are in need of making repairs," said Steve J. Bernas, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. “While there may be a sense of urgency, we encourage consumers and business owners to carefully consider repair contracts and not rush into making expensive decisions that can aggravate an already stressful time.”

The Better Business Bureau provides a FREE online service “Request a Quote” to find local BBB Accredited contractors you can trust at

There are a number of things that should be taken into consideration if your home or business has been damaged due to the rains. The first step is to immediately contact your insurance agent to file a claim. For flood damage clean-up follow these tips:

  • Where possible, take photos of any water saturation. An insurance adjuster may need to see what’s been damaged in order to process your claim.
  • According to the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), as soon as the majority of water is drained away, all wet items should be discarded or cleaned and thoroughly dried within 48 hours of flooding to prevent the growth of mold.

Where more extensive repair is needed:

  • Do research – contact the BBB before you hire a contractor and avoid businesses who come to your door with a good deal. Go to our website at and consider using the BBB’s FREE online service called Request a Quote to obtain estimates, proposals or general information from BBB Accredited contractors.
  • Request bids from three or four different companies.
  • Base all bids on the same criteria.
  • Don’t automatically pick the lowest bid.
  • Do not give into demands to make excessively large down payments. And don't make full payment until all the work is done to your satisfaction. BBB suggests that no more than one-third be paid up front.
  • Determine whether the contractor has the proper insurance.
  • Ask to see any required state or local permits or licenses.
  • Work with contractors who have a verifiable track record.
  • Homeowners should check with local and county units of government to determine if permits or inspections are required.
  • Get all estimates in writing.
  • Require a written contract 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 and phone number along with a start and end date for the work is included in contract. Read and understand the contract in its entirety, don’t sign a blank contract and a copy of the signed contract is to be given to you at time of signature. Illinois law requires a written contract for any work costing more than $1000.
  • Be wary of “Storm Chasers” individuals who go door to door offering great deals on repair work. They often claim to have left-over materials from a job down the street. Check that they are local and have a permanent place of business.

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The BBB is a non-profit, non-governmental organization.  It is supported by businesses to protect consumers against scams and other unethical business practices.  The group accomplishes this by educating both consumers and businesses, and by highlighting trustworthy businesses. By developing reports and ratings on businesses and charitable organizations, the BBB encourages people to use these as resources and referrals to utilize the free services before making a purchase or donation. The BBB helps resolve buyer/seller complaints through its alternative dispute resolution process. In 2013, the BBB provided more than 22,600,000 instances of service.  Over 80 percent of consumer complaints to the BBB were resolved. The Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois is a member of the international BBB system that services the United States, Canada and Mexico.