An ABC7 I-Team Report
CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Home Builder Association and Better Business Bureau want people to watch out for unreliable contractors who may try to make a quick buck of victims of severe storms and tornadoes.
Falling trees, power lines and hail can cause severe damage, which may take weeks or months to repair. But the Better Business Bureau and the Northern Illinois Home Builders Association are alerting people to "storm chasers" preying on that damage.
Victims of storm damage should never sign a contract or pay a repairman who shows up on their doorstep. Instead, they should check to make sure any contractor is bonded and insured, verify their address and website, check to see if they are a member of a reputable home builders association and review their BBB record.
The BBB says homeowners should also get at least three opinions for any job, and should make payments to the company not the individual contractor.
Once the homeowner has decided to hire someone, it's vital to get all estimates, agreements and details in writing, pay in thirds and use a credit card so charges can be reversed if they become a victim of fraud. Never use cash to pay for repair services.
Homeowners should also beware of contractors and roofers who say they can help file insurance claims. Instead, wait for the insurance adjuster.
State Farm tells the I-Team it already has representatives assessing the damage in impacted areas.
State Farm Insurance Tips
Better Business Bureau Alert: Homeowners Should Guard Against Severe Weather Rip-offs
The first of what will be many days of severe weather this spring and summer is predicted to bring with it high winds, hail and possible flooding. In some cases home owners will need assistance to fix problems, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) advises consumers to use caution in selecting contractors to make repairs.
"Along with the damage, natural disasters also bring scam artist," says Steve J. Bernas, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. "These scammers are known as 'storm chasers' and are a real threat; they rip-off consumers with promises of great work at cheap prices."
Going door to door they'll make offers of roof and siding repair, removal of downed trees and damaged landscaping even auto repair.
Bernas notes, "If anyone comes to your door offering to begin work on damage, take their information and tell them that you will follow up if you are interested in using them for repairs."
If your property has been damaged as a result of severe weather, the BBB offers these tips before choosing a contractor:
If you have flooding problems to avoid being scammed, the BBB recommends three things to successfully hire a contractor:
Additionally, review contracts thoroughly reading all agreements, guarantees and instructions.
Bernas cautions that consumers should never sign a blank or partially blank contract. "Make sure all oral promises are put in writing. Be wary of vaguely worded provisions, exclusions or limitations which could pose a problem later," Additionally he notes, "In Illinois a contract is required for all repairs totaling more than one thousand dollars".
Typically, a down payment of one-third the total contract price is made with additional payments due after completion of each phase of work. Final payment should not be made until the job is completed and you have inspected the work.
Before signing any home improvement contract consider the following tips from the BBB:
Research for details and free information on contractors you can trust at www.bbb.org and consider using the BBB's FREE online service eQuote to obtain estimates, proposals or general information from BBB Accredited contractors.
Get all estimates in writing.
Never sign a contract with blank spaces or one you do not fully understand.
Homeowners should check with local and county units of government to determine if permits or inspections are required.
Determine whether the contractor has the proper insurance.
The BBB also makes these recommendations to property owners looking to obtain flood insurance: