After the Storm: Avoiding the Scammers

Wednesday, February 11th 2009, 7:02 pm
By: News 9

I really feel a lot of your pain right now!  The storm ripped down part of my backyard fence (I was more worried about Willie & Sonoma - our dogs - but they are safely inside right now).  Now it's all about getting it repaired - and fast.  Here's what I did:   I checked the BBB first.  They have a listing of accredited companies.  I chose a company that looked good.  And here's the key:  I CALLED THEM.  Be very leery of companies that come to you.  Not that they won't do a good job, just check them out.  I also was able to pay for the new fence with a credit card.  That will give me added protection should they run off with my money and not do the job. 

I also recently blogged about the importance of a contract.  It is vital if you're having work done.  Any deal with a contractor needs to be in writing.  Here's some tips:

It doesn't have to be fancy. Just make sure it details the:
- Work to be done (who's going to get the building permit if necessary), price, when payments will be made, and when the job will be finished.
- Be as specific as possible describing what you'll be buying or the services provided
- Never sign a blank/partially blank contract.
- Keep a copy for your records.
- Make sure it includes both sides contact information and address.

Also, Angie's List, which provides local service company ratings, put out these tips to avoid shady storm chasers:

  • What not to do: If a stranger comes to your storm-ravaged yard offering to repair your roof, remove trees or do other major repair work for cash upfront, just say no. Chances are, he or she will take your money and disappear, leaving you with little or no recourse.
    Do your research: Check Angie's List to get some insight into local service companies. Check the status of the contractor's bonding and liability insurance coverage too. While you might get lucky working with an independent provider who lists his truck as a permanent address, remember that you have few options if the job goes awry or the provider disappears.
    Quality is worth the wait: When massive storms hit, tree services, plumbers, roofers and hauling companies are in high demand and the best performers are generally the busiest. Beware the company with time on its hands when every other similar company can't even answer the phones.
    Get estimates: Though your situation might seem to be one of desperation, avoid settling on the first contractor who comes along and offers to do the job. Take enough time to get at least a few different estimates on the job.
    Document important information: The same holds true for the old adage to "get it in writing," including the price, materials to be used and the timeline for completing the job. This is often the best ammunition you have if things go wrong.