The storm that blew through southern Idaho earlier this month – toppling trucks in Twin Falls and downing trees in the Treasure Valley – is now attracting storm chasers. But they aren't the storm chasers you might be thinking about. Better Business Bureau’s Dale Dixon joined Good Morning Idaho to tell us about this version of storm chasers.
"These are not the crazy people who run into the heart of a tornado with video cameras and measuring equipment," says Dixon. "These storm chasers are often from out of state and rush in in the weeks after a storm and offer to clean up the damage. We’re getting word out of Eagle of people going door-to-door offering to fix damaged roofs."
So what exactly is the concern? Dixon told us, "Whenever Better Business Bureau hears about storm chasers – we usually hear about broken promises and theft – from upfront payments for work that’s never done and shoddy work. Someone knocks on the door – says, I’m in the neighborhood and able to help now by fixing your roof – we need cash up front to buy supplies. The homeowner is stressed, wants the damage fixed and takes the person at his words – forks over the cash and never gets the work done."
BBB offers these tips for making sure you can avoid getting scammed:
- Do your research. Check with your insurance company about policy coverage and specific filing requirements. Save all receipts if temporary roofing repairs are necessary.
- Stay calm. Although you may be anxious to get things back to normal, avoid letting your emotions get the better of you. Don't be pressured into making an immediate decision with a long-term impact. Be pro-active in selecting a company and not re-active to sales solicitations.
- Shop around. For major repairs, take time to shop around and get 3-4 estimates based on the same specifications and materials. Check out references that are at least one-year-old, and verify that the contractor is required to be licensed and/or registered to do work in your area. Also, check with your local building inspector to see if a building permit is required.
- Avoid high-pressure sales tactics. Be wary of door-to-door workers who claim to have leftover materials from a job “down the street” or who do not have a permanent place of business. If sales people go door-to-door, check to see if your community requires them to have solicitation permits.
- Trust your gut. Be leery if a worker shows up on your doorstep to announce that your home is unsafe. If you are concerned about possible structural damage in your home, have an engineer, architect or building official inspect it. While most roofing contractors abide by the law, be careful allowing someone you do not know to inspect your roof. An unethical contractor may actually create damage to get work.
- Get everything in writing. Require a written contract agreement with anyone you hire. Be sure their name, address, license number and phone number are included in the contract. Read and understand the contract in its entirety, don’t sign a blank contract, and make sure you get a copy of the signed contract at the time of signature.
Better Business Bureau has a number of resources to help you protect your identity and money. Find more at their website here.