St. Louis, Mo., Nov. 18, 2013 – After severe storms and tornadoes swept across the Midwest Sunday causing heavy damage, injuries and loss of life, Better Business Bureau (BBB) offers consumers seven tips to avoid trouble with deceptive, unethical or unskilled storm-chasing contractors seeking to cash in on the damage.
Fly-by-night contractors often go door to door after storms, offering to help victims clear debris or patch up homes. BBB handled 5,162 complaints against general contractors nationwide last year, including 530 in eastern Missouri and Southern Illinois. In addition, BBB received 7,100 complaints against roofers, including 309 in eastern Missouri and Southern Illinois.
After previous storms, BBB has taken complaints about contractors who took deposits from consumers and did poor, little or no work. Some couldn’t be reached when consumers wanted refunds or were dissatisfied with the repairs.
Michelle Corey, BBB President and CEO, advises consumers to check out contractors with BBB before hiring them. BBB Business Reviews give consumers vital information about how companies operate and whether they respond to customer complaints.
“Homeowners need to be sure that a contractor will honor promises and not just take their money and run,” Corey said. “Consumers need to make sure that the contractors are qualified and reliable before they sign a contract or pay any money.”
BBB has seven tips to help you avoid trouble when hiring anyone to make repairs:
- Check your homeowner’s insurance policy before making repairs. Most insurers want an adjuster to survey the damage before they authorize repairs.
- Don’t let door-to-door salespeople pressure you to make a quick decision. Resist high-pressure sales tactics, such as assertions that an offer is good for just one day.
- Get several bids. Compare bids from prospective contractors based on the same specifications, materials, warranty and labor needed to complete the project.
- If a contractor is evasive about his qualifications or insurance, just walk away. Make sure the company is insured against claims covering workers’ compensation, property damage and personal liability in case of accidents. Consumers should obtain the name of the insurance carrier and call to verify coverage. Ask whether the contractor meets licensing and bonding requirements set by the state, county or city.
- Don’t let your concern about preventing further damage overwhelm the need to abide by local building codes and rules. Find out whether permits are needed before proceeding with the work. The contractor also should be aware of any required permits. Ask whether the contractor will provide a lien waiver upon completion of the job. A lien waiver is a statement by the contractor that all suppliers and subcontractors have been paid for their work.
- Avoid disappointment by insisting on a written contract. Get any verbal promises in writing. Include start and completion dates in the contract as well as specifications of materials and the scope of work. Read and understand the contract before signing.
- Remember the rule of thirds. Pay one third at the start of the project, one third when work is 50 percent completed and one third after completion.
A BBB video on hiring contractors is available at http://youtu.be/PBn5M8_RkP0.
For more information to help you make smart, informed decisions about projects around your home, check with BBB by going online to www.bbb.org or by calling 314-645-3300.