September 6, 2017- Natural disasters can bring out the best in people, as strangers reach out to help others in need. Unfortunately, the aftermath of a crisis typically also brings out contractors who take advantage of those who have been victimized.
Better Business Bureau serving Southeast Florida & the Caribbean (BBB) is warning local residents that may be affected by Hurricane Irma to beware of storm chasers and out-of- town contractors soliciting business. “It is common for out-of- town storm chasers to solicit business after storms,” said Rod Davis, BBB President. “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:
- Plan ahead by creating a list of trustworthy, local storm repair and clean-up contractors before the storm hits by visiting www.bbb.org/sefl.
- Our Florida Preparedness Guide also has important information on how to prepare for a storm https://www.bbb.org/florida-hurricane-guide/
- Contractors must be registered with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, unless work is limited to a specific area. To check licensing, call 850.487.1395, download their app named DBPR mobile or go online to http://www.myfloridalicense.com/ to check whether a contractor is registered. If contractors limit their work to local areas they may only be required to secure a license with their county in lieu of DBPR. Check with your local county contractors’ certification/building department if you are unsure if a contractor has secured proper licensing.
- 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.
- Check online with the http://sunbiz.org/ or call 850.245.6000 to verify that a 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 the Price Gouging Hotline established by the Florida Attorney General’s Office at 1-866-9-NO-SCAM.
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/sefl or call your BBB at 800-834-6286.
To Media: For more information or to schedule an interview with a BBB spokesperson, please contact Cinthya Lavin at 305-300-1151.
ABOUT BBB: 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 172 million times for BBB Business Reviews on more than 5.3 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 South East Florida and the Caribbean which was founded in 1969 and serves eleven counties in Florida and all of Puerto Rico.