Strong storms with powerful winds moved through the Mid-South this past weekend, toppling trees, downing power lines and causing damage to roofs, homes, cars and fences. Unfortunately, the aftermath of a storm often brings out less-than-ethical contractors looking to take advantage of those who need help cleaning up and repairing storm damage. Folks who are anxious to get their homes and yards back to normal should be on the lookout for scams involving clean-up efforts, tree or limb removal, and fence, roof, and home repairs.
Storm chasers often go door-to-door after storms offering to do clean-up or repair work. In some instances, a homeowner may pay for a small amount of work to be done, only to be told after the fact that more work was completed and they now owe exorbitant amounts of money to the shady contractors. In other cases, the contractor may disappear with the homeowner's money and do no work at all. Certain types of jobs don't require a contractor's license. Just because someone shows up with a chainsaw and offers to remove fallen trees doesn’t make them a reputable tree service company.
Homeowners should exercise caution when dealing with door-to-door solicitors, who may not be licensed or insured, may not do a good job and may not be around later to complete or correct work once homeowners realize repairs weren’t done properly.
While everyone wants to get storm damage repaired as quickly as possible, BBB urges homeowners to be patient throughout the process and take the time to check out a company before hiring them to do work. You can use your smartphone to check out someone who shows up unbidden at your door while they are standing on your front porch. It's fast and free at bbb.org.
BBB Tips for Dealing with Storm Damage:
- Be wary of door-to-door workers who show up unsolicited offering to make repairs. This includes companies offering to remove fallen trees and branches. Improper removal of fallen trees could cause further damage to your home.
- Although you may be anxious to get things back to normal, avoid acting in haste. Don't be pressured into signing a long-term contract. Make temporary repairs if necessary.
- Check with your insurance company about policy coverage and specific filing requirements. Keep copies of receipts for emergency repairs for reimbursement later.
- Take time to shop around for contractors, get competitive bids, and check out the contractor with BBB at bbb.org or by calling 901-759-1300 or 800-222-8754.
- BBB can provide you a list of BBB Accredited Businesses to choose from, including roofers, tree removal companies, fence companies and other home repair businesses.
- Get everything in writing. Prepare a written agreement with anyone you hire that outlines the work to be done, the materials to be used, and the price breakdown for both labor and materials. Review it carefully before signing. Vague clauses such as “repair roof” are invitations for abuse.
- Never pay the full amount of repairs in advance. BBB advises that you pay no more than 30% up front. Pay with a credit card if possible, which offers you more protection if the work is not completed as specified.
- Both Shelby and Haywood Counties in West Tennessee require contractors to hold a valid Home Improvement contractor’s license for jobs ranging from $3000 to $24,999. Jobs over $25,000 require a valid General Contractor’s license from the state. If you live in either of these counties and your repair work totals more than $3000, ask for proof of the business’s Home Improvement or Contractor’s license.
- Read more BBB tips regarding home improvement scams at bbb.org/homescam.