Hurricane Season: Avoiding Contractor Scams After Storms
By Suzanne De Vita
Amid this year’s historic hurricane season, and in the aftermath of two devastating storms, countless homeowners are on the path to rebuild.
For the communities in a hurricane’s wake, there’s a danger to be mindful of: contractor scams.
If a Contractor Knocks…
When disaster strikes, homeowners are often targets, having just bore the brunt of catastrophe and in need of quick repairs. One of the most common contractor cons is unsolicited—someone approaches your door under the guise of help, but asks for cash before completing any work, or to enter your home to “inspect” the premises. They could be looking to make off with your money, or burglarize the home later.
What can you do to ensure you’re not victimized? Ask your REALTOR® for a recommendation, or family or friends. Generally, referrals can be trusted.
Avoid contractors who aren’t licensed, advises the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI). A license is required in many states, as well as insurance—ask for copies of each, and confirm them with authorities in your municipality.
Go local if possible, NARI recommends. Contractors in the area are likely to have legitimate local references, and can be assessed more easily than out-of-towners—and, they’ll be aware of building codes and permitting requirements specific to your town.
When comparing estimates, carefully look over the proposals, and avoid immediately signing them. Do costs differ dramatically between professionals? Are any estimates “too good to be true”? Did the contractor pressure you on price? Be on the lookout for these “tells”—they could be an indicator of a scam.
When you decide on a hire, don’t give them a check from your insurer—you could be forfeiting your rights, and/or losing the payout, according to the Better Business Bureau (BBB). A credit card is safest.
If all else fails, do an online search. Are there complaints lodged against the person? Has the company been in legal trouble? Are they accredited with the BBB, or another credible organization? Be cautious, and do your homework!