When nature throws a curve and causes a natural disaster, Contractors may come from across the country for work. Local lesser known may come out of the woodwork. Some are legit while others are scammers. Like a hawk circling its prey, they swoop in on the areas in the wake of severe storms, flooding, and tornadoes, etc. feeding on fast easy money and desperate homeowners. Storm scammers are the less savory side of the remodeling industry and cause damage to reputable contractors.
Alerts are given to homeowners and businesses from time to time to remain vigilant and to not fall prey to these less than ethical home remodeling and repair con artists, who have no issues with the concept of take the money and run. Those who ply their trade door to door are seldom associated with established companies and contractors. Instead, they descend on troubled areas where they feed on the desperation of those effected.
Here are some steps you can take to protect yourself from storm scammers:
- Choose local contractors or those affiliated with national firms. Should something be amiss, homeowners are more apt to get resolution than those from out of state.
- Not all contractors that knock on your door or leave a door hanger maybe unethical. There are many smaller capable companies. With these local contractors, references are more easily verifiable.
- No matter how desperate the damage to your home may appear, never allow yourself to be pressured or rushed into signing a contract. Reputable home remodeling contractors have no need to use pressure tactics.
- Even if you are in a hurry to get repairs done, take the time to thoroughly interview and get estimates from several local contractors, even if the contractors have been referred to you. This step alone will go a long way towards protecting you from unscrupulous contractors. Be sure to ask about their licensing to do remodeling and repairs in your state, as well as the status of their insurance for improper home repairs, property damage and injury. Follow up on this information to verify it is current and accurate.
- If it sounds to good to be true, it probably is. Low estimates are another calling card of the less reputable element in the home remodeling and repair industry.
- The state of Illinois requires a written contract for any repair or remodeling work that exceeds $1,000. Check the requirements in your state and ensure that any contract you agree to states in writing every detail of the work and materials that are to be used. Also, be sure to get a copy of any contract that you sign.
- Do Not pay the full amount of the contract up front and never pay in cash. While a down payment of some sort will be required, this amount is generally in the neighborhood of 30% to 50%, depending on what the contractor must order in advance in order to complete the job in a timely manner. For large jobs, the contractor may require that payments are made as specific stages are completed. The full amount should not be paid until you are satisfied that the job you contracted for is fully completed.
- Be aware of your right to cancel any contract signed during a salesperson’s visit to your home, within 3 business days. The contract should state which days the contractor or company considers to be business days. If it does not, have this information added to the contract and initialed by the salesperson and yourself. Illinois State has a Home Repair: Know your consumer rights publication for the homeowner.
- Another disreputable practice that has come to light is the calling of consumers in storm damage areas with claims of belonging to various federal agencies. These callers often request that you reveal personal information or banking information. Legitimate agencies do not request information of this nature over the phone.
Every year, homeowners in various areas of the country are left dealing with the aftermath and damage that Mother Nature has left in her wake. Sadly, many homeowners also suffer the double indignity of being victimized by storm scammers. Know your rights and protect your home and your bank account against these unscrupulous predators by ensuring the home remodeling contractors you are dealing with are reputable and worthy of your trust.