Beware of Storm-Chasing Contractors
Learn about this common practice and important things to consider when hiring a general contractor for home repairs after a storm.
If a major storm damages your house, the last thing you want to worry about is whether you've hired a trustworthy general contractor for home repairs. Additionally, you want to begin the restoration process as soon as possible. Storm chasers are companies that complete home repairs (common repairs include roofing and siding), and typically solicit business from homeowners after large natural disasters occur, such as hailstorms, hurricanes and tornadoes.
There are some benefits of working with these types of contractors. For instance, they can help speed up the restoration process in an area that has been hit by a storm because professional storm chasers are able to quickly organize an entire unit (including project managers, construction crews, and insurance claim specialists), while it’s nearly impossible for only local contractors to respond to all the damage in a timely manner.
Unfortunately, some storm chasers exploit vulnerable homeowners with money-making scams that can end up costing them and their insurance company thousands of dollars. A few types of scams to beware include prepayment, offering to pay your deductible, performing low-quality work, and creating fake or inflated damage.
How to Avoid Storm Chaser Scams
Recognizing a storm chaser is the first—and most important—step. Many people find themselves in a desperate situation after a natural disaster and may fall for their pitch because they promise quick home repairs. But remember, there are actions you can take to ensure you’re making the right decision when deciding whether or not to work with them.
DO YOUR HOMEWORK
Most storm-chasing contractors travel to areas that have recently been hit by a storm and try to get jobs doing the work that local companies can't do since home repairs are in high demand. If someone is going door-to-door approaching homeowners about repairs, pay attention to their license plates. If they have out-of-state tags, they are most likely in town temporarily to perform work, but likely don't have plans to stay and follow up with customers, fix any inadequate repairs, or help with maintenance and upkeep. If you can, try to verify they are an actual local business.
LICENSING AND INSURANCE
Whether you choose a local or out-of-state company to repair your home, you'll want to make sure they are licensed (in your state) and insured. Oftentimes storm chasers will offer local businesses money to use their name and license to appear like they are working for a reputable, local company. Ask to see their license, paperwork, and current certificates (for workman's compensation and liability insurance coverage) to confirm that they're a legitimate, trustworthy company.
CONTRACTS AND COMPENSATION
Always get everything in writing. A written contract not only specifies the type of work the contractor has agreed to perform, time frame to complete the work, and costs, but is also proof of the agreement, should any legal problems arise. You should never feel rushed into signing anything or agreeing to terms you're not comfortable with. A reliable and trustworthy professional isn't going to pressure you to make a decision, but someone who's looking to do the work and collect payment quickly most likely will. When it's time for payment, consider paying with a credit card instead of a personal check. Also, avoid paying with cash because there's no paper trail to substantiate the transaction and unfortunately, no easy way to get it back.
Who Should You Hire?
In addition to researching an individual general contractor or company and confirming that they are local and legally licensed, check their references and ask to see their portfolio to get an idea of the type and quality of work they do. Ask friends and family members for recommendations, too, since they can give you specific details about who've they've hired and had a good experience with, and always make sure you work with a professional to ensure quality work.
The information and advice contained in this article is intended as a general guide for informational purposes only. It does not take into account your personal situation. While we at Resolve have significant experience and history operating in the home restoration industry and working closely with construction contractors, we are not licensed as a general or specialty contractor. We encourage you to consider the information we’ve provided but urge you not to rely upon it in place of appropriate professional advice from a licensed, experienced construction contractor.