After a massive storm rips through the area, the crisis creates an opportunity for fraudulent contractors to prey on storm victims. The uphill road to clean up after a storm is long, but can be even longer if taken advantage of.
Christine Fuller is one of the dozens of people still taking in all the damage done to her home after a tornado rips through Millcreek. “Breaking of the windows. A lot of it was outside damage thank God… We were able to look around and we just saw a roof laying on our deck, trees down. It was scary.”
It’s the time of anxiety right after home and property damage when what the Better Business Bureau calls “storm chasers” are on the prowl. Pam Marlowe of the BBB tells us, “They just show up in the neighborhood, knock on doors and talk to neighbors and homeowners and offer usually a pretty good deal and they offer their services immediately.”
When hiring a contractor, take your time, research companies, make sure the companies or groups are registered in the state, solicit multiple bids for the work and follow the rule of thirds. “Any contracts over $5,000, you should pay one-third of that contract price up front, one-third halfway through and one-third when the job is complete.”
Adam Riesdorph is waiting to see what his insurance claim says when it comes back but says he’s most likely going to avoid the worry and do the work himself. He tells us, “We can do whatever we want right now, but it’s just a matter of getting this cleaned up. This is our main issue right here, all the trees.”
While Fuller continues to call around. “I did call out roofers. I called a place for, they’re going to come later today to check our windows for replacement and the siding.”
Warning signs of “storm chasers” include:
• Door-to-door solicitation
• No Valid Pennsylvania Home Improvement Contractor Registration Number
• Lack of written contract
• Request for payment up-front
• Request for payment in cash or a check made out to an individual
• High-pressure sales tactics
Your Better Business Bureau is advising residents who have been impacted by storms to remember the following tips:
• Contact your insurance company: Check with your insurance company immediately to inquire about policy coverage and how to file a claim. Keep copies of any receipts for reimbursement.
• Obtain bids from qualified contractors: Request bids from 2-3 contractors using the same set of specifications before making a commitment.
• Check for registration and insurance: Verify contractors you are considering hiring are properly registered with the PA Attorney General’s Office and have up-to-date workers compensation and liability insurance. Make sure they are approved by your insurance company before entering into an agreement. Ask to see proof of their registration and current certificates of insurance.
• Get everything in writing: Make sure you receive a copy of the contract and that all details of the project are listed before signing. If the company makes any verbal promises, make sure it is included in writing. Vague clauses such as “repair roof” are invitations for abuse.
• Follow the rule of thirds: PA law states that no more than one-third of the job or one-third of the job plus the cost of any special order materials can be paid up front for contracts over $5,000. Be sure the contract specifies the schedule for releasing payments to the contractor. Make payment to the company by credit card or check made out to the company, rather than cash.
Find free information on home improvement contractors, file a complaint and report scams on bbb.org/erie.