BBB Warns of Storm Chasers in the Wake of Hurricane Irma

  
     
September 12, 2017

Jacksonville,FL – September 12, 2017 – The recent damage done by Hurricane Irma in our Northeast Florida, Southeast Georgia and Coastal South Carolina 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, Better Buiness Bureau Serving Northeast Florida & The Southeast Atlantic is warning local residents affected by the recent storms to beware of storm chasers and out-of-town contractors soliciting business.

“It is not uncommon for out-of-town storm chasers to solicit business after storms like the ones we had last week,” said Tom Stephens, President of the Better Business Bureau. “Storm chasers may not have proper licensure for your area and may offer quick fixes or make big promises to which they won’t deliver.”

Your BBB offers the following tips for storm victims:

  • Create a list of trustworthy, local storm repair and clean-up contractors by visiting bbb.org/north-east-florida.
  • In Florida,  contractors must be registered with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation unless work is limited to a specific area. Call 850-487-1395, download their app named DBPR mobile, or go online to www.myfloridalicense.com to check whether a contractor is registered.
  • In Georgia, general contractors, electricians, plumbers and heating and air conditioning contractors must be licensed with the Georgia Secretary of State. Call 844-753-7825 or go online to sos.ga.gov/ to check whether a contractor is registered.
  • In South Carolina contractors must be registered with the South Carolina's Contractor's Licensing Board. Call 803-896-4300 or go online to www.llr.state.sc.us/pol/contractors to check whether a contractor is registered. 
  • Check online with Division of Corparations for your state: sunbiz.org (Florida), sos.ga.gov (Georgia) or sc.gov (South Carolina) to verify that the company is registered to do business in your state.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Many municipalities require a solicitation permit if sales people go door-to-door.  Verify that they need to have a permit 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.
  • Understand Assignment of Benefits Contracts.  Beware of contractors who claim to be insurance claim specialists and may ask you to sign an agreement to allow them to contact your insurance company and seek approval of repairs for you.  Many unscrupulous businesses have tricked consumers into signing a work estimate without reading the fine print, which commits you to automatically contract with their business if your insurance claim is approved.  Click here for more information from Florida Department of Financial Services.
  • When dealing with mold in Florida, mold assessors and remediators must hold an active license with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulations.  You may view the status at www.myfloridalicense.com  or call 1-850-487-1395. The license information also should tell you how long the contractor has been licensed to perform work.  Make sure the business has extensive experience in cleaning up mold. Ask for references from the business and contact these references for more information. Also, ask family and friends if they have worked with a mold remediation expert in the past and had a favorable experience.
  • Get a written contract that specifies the price, 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.
  • Beware of price gouging of commodities or services; if there’s a “gross disparity” between the prior price and the current charge, it is considered price gouging. If you think you are being priced gouged report it to your  Attorney General’s office (Florida- myfloridalegal.com; Georgia- law.ga.gov; South Carolina - scag.gov)

 

 

Your BBB is seeing out-of-state contractors setting up shop in the area trying to capture construction work caused by the (DISASTER). BBB is warning the 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. Many 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.

If you hire an uninsured and unlicensed contractor and a serious injury were to occur to the contractor, you, as the person that hired them, could potentially be liable for paying the workers compensation benefits.  This could turn a simple $1,000 repair into a bill for tens of thousands more.  In addition, a neighboring property, a passerby or other property that is negligently damaged by an unlicensed contractor can become a liability to the person that hired the contractor. 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 904-721-2288.

 

 

ABOUT BBB:

For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2014, people turned to BBB more than 165 million times for BBB Business Reviews on more than 4.7 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at bbb.org. The Council of Better Business Bureaus is the umbrella organization for 113 local, independent BBBs in the United States, Canada and Mexico, as well as home to its national programs on dispute resolution, advertising review, and industry self-regulation. BBB Serving Northeast Florida & The Southeast Atlantic was founded in 1987 and serves 57 counties.