After a storm hits your town, and you're left with property damage to your home, chances are you;re going to need a contractor to repair the damage. While many contractors are reputable and perform quality work, there are those that have questionable intentions. A recent example of a contractor scam involves storm chasers.
What is a storm chaser?
You may know them as individuals who pursue severe weather conditions. When it comes to property repair, the term often refers to contractors who follow severe weather events, anticipating a large amount of repair work to be done. While many of these contractors are truly trying to help those in need after a storm, others are looking to exploit vulnerable homeowners. They are a contributing factor to roofing scams across the U.S.
A storm chasing contractor will watch weather reports, waiting for severe weather like a tornado, hail storm, or windstorm to hit a region. After the storm hits, the contractor will get a crew together and travel to the affected area. They often use aggressive marketing tactics to get business from the local community. The scammers will complete a rush job and will not be available in the future when the roof starts to fail.
What are warning signs of a storm chaser?
Look for red flags that may indicate you're dealing with a storm chaser. Be cautious of contractors:
- From out-of-town, or even from out-of-state. Check for the company's physical address. If only a P.O. Box is listed, they may not have a physical location in the area and are set up temporarily.
- Offering to repair storm damage at a fast pace and at little cost to the homeowner. They will encourage homeowners to use their homeowners insurance for the damage.
- Some contractors may ask you to sign over your insurance benefits to speed up the process. Be cautious of these "post-loss assignment" contracts, and obtain legal advice before signing one.
- Asking for cash payment upfront.
What can you do to ensure a contractor is reputable?
To lower your chances of being scammed, make sure you do your research. Ask these questions before making any commitments:
- Is the contractor visiting your door unsolicited? This may indicate a storm chaser is looking for business.
- Can the contractor provide references from previous customers in the area?
- Does the contractor have valid insurance and licensing required by the state or local government?
- How much experience do the contractor and crew have?
- Are quality materials being used in the repair?
- Can you pay with credit card or check? Paying with a cash deposit or cash in-full is a warning sign of a scammer.
- Will a warranty accompany the work? A scammer will often leave town right after the repair, leaving you with no support if there are problems with the roof in the future.
- Is the repair work a good deal only if you sign today? Don't feel pressure to sign anything before you've done your research. Often scammers will offer what sounds like a great deal on a repair, hoping you'll make a hasty decision.
And if you're concerned about your homeowners policy coverage of the repair in question, give your agent a call.
originally published by Goodville Mutual Casualty Company