Many areas throughout Western Pennsylvania have been affected by storm damage from the recent severe weather. From flooding to roof and tree damage by lightning, wind and hail, along with reported tornado touch downs, consumers are urged to use caution under such extreme weather conditions. Your Better Business Bureau of Western PA is offering tips for home and business owners coping with storm damage and is warning people to do their research when hiring a company.
When severe weather hits an area unexpectedly, out-of-state contractors begin to arrive, capitalizing on the fact that people are desperate to get repairs completed as quickly as possible. The Better Business Bureau has been receiving inquiries from consumers regarding the legitimacy of businesses who are soliciting their repair services door-to-door.
“Storm chasing is a multi-million dollar industry, complete with computerized hail forecasting, teams of out-of-state installers and trained salespeople who solicit work for the company,” says Warren King, President of the Better Business Bureau of Western PA. “Area contractors should also be aware of storm chasers who are willing to pay to use their established name and contact information in order to masquerade as a reputable local business.”
Once repairs are completed and paid for, the out-of-state contractors will eventually leave in search of the next storm-ridden location. Oftentimes, contractors who have lent their business names are left with repairs from poor workmanship and warranties they must fulfill from unsatisfied customers. The Better Business Bureau is offering the following advice for consumers and business owners who experience storm damage:
- Contractors must be registered with the PA Attorney General. Call 888-520-6680 or visit http://www.attorneygeneral.gov/ to check whether a contractor is properly registered.
- Many municipalities require a solicitation permit if sales people go do-to-door to promote their services. Verify that they have to have a permit by contacting your local Township or Municipality. BBB suggests consumers be pro-active in selecting a contractor and not re-active to sales calls on the phone or door-to-door pitches.
- While most roofing contractors abide by the law, be careful allowing someone you do not know inspect your roof. An unethical contractor may actually create damage to get work.
- Request proof that the contractor has insurance covering workmen’s compensation, property damage and personal liability. Ask for a current copy of the insurance certificate for your records.
- Try to get at least 3-4 quotes from contractors, and insist that payments be made to the company, not an individual.
- Do not pay for the entire job in advance. Be wary of any contractor who demands full or half payment upfront. The law states for a contract of more than $1,000, the contractor cannot accept a deposit in excess of 1/3 of the contract price or 1/3 of the contract price plus the cost of special order materials. Make sure you get a receipt from the contractor and that the contract properly accounts for the amount you have already paid.
- Resist high-pressure sales tactics such as the “good deal” you will get only if you hire the contractor on the spot.
- Before signing the contract, read it over in its entirety. Do not sign if there are blank lines or if there are statements you do not understand. Law requires a copy of the signed contract be given to you at the time of signing.
- Make sure to read the fine print in a contract. Some contracts use a clause where substantial cancellation fees or liquidation damages are required if the homeowner decides not to use the contractor after insurance approval of the claim. In some instances you may be required to pay the full agreed price if the homeowner cancels after the 3 day cancellation period.
- Pay by credit card, if possible; you may have additional protection if there’s a problem. BBB recommends never paying with cash or through a wire transfer.
- Never make final payment or sign an affidavit of final release until you are satisfied with the work done and know that all subcontractors and suppliers have been paid. Inquire about any warranty protection after repairs are complete and get the information in writing.
- Check that the contractor’s vehicle has signs or markings on it with the business name, phone number and Pennsylvania license plates.
Storm victims should never feel forced to make a hasty decision or choose an unknown contractor. Start With Trust. For more resources on hiring contractors, lists of BBB Accredited Businesses by industry and Business Reviews you can trust on local companies, visit http://www.bbb.org/ or call 877-267-5222.