Disaster can strike at any time, as proven by the recent historic flooding in Central Texas. Following any kind of natural disaster, Better Business Bureau serving the Heart of Texas recommends homeowners be on the look-out for possible “storm chasers” as the recovery phase begins.
Scammers and shady contractors often travel through neighborhoods, going door-to-door after severe storms offering quick repairs and low prices. Most of these workers lack proper registration and do not stand behind their work. They are looking to get quick cash payments by preying on desperate homeowners before moving on to the next neighborhood or town. This sometimes leaves homeowners with subpar repair work — if any work is done at all — and with no way to contact the company/individual for a refund.
BBB offers advice on what natural disaster victims should look out for before hiring a contractor:
- Do your research. Find businesses you can trust on BBB.org. We have BBB Business Profiles on more than a million home contractors. Get references from friends and relatives.
- Contact your insurance company. Ask about your policy coverage and specific filing requirements. If you have flood insurance, check to see what is and isn’t covered. Flood insurance policies can have numerous exclusions. Save all receipts, including those for food, temporary lodging, or other expenses that may be covered under your policy. Your insurance company may also have recommended contractors.
- If you are in a disaster area, be cautious of upfront costs. This is a popular trick in many scammers’ playbooks. According to the Texas Business and Commerce Code, contractors working on homes damaged by natural disasters may not require someone to make a full or partial payment before work begins.
- Resist high-pressure sales. Some storm chasers use tactics such as the “good deal” you’ll get only if you hire the contractor on the spot. Be proactive in selecting a contractor and not reactive to sales calls on the phone or door-to-door pitches. Resist the urge to get the work started until you have contacted your insurance company to determine your coverage, as well as deductibles.
- Request a written contract. Make sure you receive a copy of the work contract and that all details of the project are listed before signing. If the company makes any verbal promises, make sure they are included in writing.
If you were the target of a scam, report it at BBB.org/scamtracker. It helps BBB keep track of potential scams happening in your neighborhood.