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How to Spot and Avoid Contractor Scams and Storm Chasers

The spring storm season is here in North Texas, and with it comes the potential that your property might suddenly need mending. If a hurricane, hail or wind damage were to occur, could you spot a contractor scam?


I am Chris Bishop, and I am a general contractor in Dallas and the greater DFW area. I've been in construction a long time...over 30 years. Every year in Texas, there is something that happens to homeowners who have been affected by storm damage. Storm chasing, dishonest contractors come into town and often go door to door offering their services.


Unfortunately for the homeowner, many times this ends badly. I've heard many horror stories, many starting with the homeowner making a payment and ending with the work done badly, or not done at all. Many times these contractors will start the job with the larger part of the project, like the roof, and then disappear without completing the rest of the work leaving the homeowner scrambling to try to find a contractor willing to help with the smaller, lower cost jobs.


image of home improvements scams about storm chasers and contractor scams

Homeowners facing the task of home repair or renovations following a storm or natural disaster are particularly susceptible to scams from these “fly-by-night” contractors. Yet that’s not the only time that someone might find themselves potentially vulnerable to contractor fraud.


So, how can you spot — and, more importantly, avoid — contractor scams?


Telltale Signs of a Storm Chaser Contractor Scam

Don't judge a book by it's cover. Just because contractor shows up at your doorstep and has a professional appearance doesn't guarantee their trustworthiness. Also, I know several highly skilled contractors who do not necessarily look all that professional.


Many times these guys have been at other jobs and can't take the time to change clothes to be more presentable. So, when you are getting bids from contractors after a storm or natural disaster, scrutinize their words and actions instead of their appearance.


Contractor Scammers and Storm Chasers Signs


  • Arrive at your doorstep uninvited, claiming to be "in the area."

  • Pressure you into making hasty decisions without a written contract.

  • Insist that you pay upfront.

  • Ask you to secure any necessary permits on your own.

  • Dismiss your questions or concerns too quickly.

  • Reach out to you repeatedly over the phone with high-pressure sales tactics.

  • Make bold claims about their speed, efficiency.

  • Boast how their work can dramatically increase your safety, energy savings, security or home value.

  • Impersonate another well-known or established brand.

  • Make an offer that sounds “too good to be true”.

  • Discourage you from seeking quotes from other providers or input from close family or friends.

You may have additional red flags that resonate with you personally, in which case, it's advisable to either decline their offer or thoroughly vet them.


How can you avoid a home improvement scam?

Although incidents of these scams may increase after storms and natural disasters, they are a constant menace. Regularly consulting reliable sources can keep you informed about the potential threats in your area.


Local media often reports on emerging scams, but nationally, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) serves as a top-notch resource for all things related to homeownership. In Texas, the Office of the Attorney General not only educates consumers but also provides an avenue for filing online consumer complaints.


Bear in mind that someone in your family may encounter a home improvement scam sooner or later. According to the Better Business Bureau (BBB) consumers across the U.S. reported total losses exceeding $1.1 million due to such scams, with an average loss of $944 per report. Given that these numbers come from voluntary complaints to the BBB, the actual figures are likely much higher.


To safeguard against falling victim to a home improvement or storm damage repair scam, the BBB recommends these steps for homeowners to identify problems with contractors or home-service providers:


  • Be cautious of "red flags," such as high-pressure sales tactics.

  • Insist on a written contract, avoiding handshake deals.

  • Do not pay the entire project cost upfront in cash.

  • Request and scrutinize a list of references; scammers often resist reference checks.

  • Know the legal requirements for contractors in your state.

Meanwhile, the FTC suggests:


  • Seek multiple estimates: A written estimate should be very detailed, specifying the work to be done, the materials required, the target completion date and the price. Beware the lowest bid and ask for an explanation if there’s a big difference among the estimates.

  • Read any contract carefully: Be sure it includes the contractor’s name and contact information.

  • An estimated start and completion date.

  • Previously discussed details regarding the scope of work as well as labor and materials costs.

  • A written statement of your right to cancel the contract within three business days (if you sign the document at home).

How can you find a reputable general contractor?

Verify Insurance

Ensure that the contractor is insured. Confirm that they have liability insurance to protect both you and their workers.


Get Multiple Bids

Obtain detailed written estimates from different contractors. Compare the scope of work, materials, labor costs, and project timelines. Be cautious of bids that are significantly lower than the others, as they may indicate subpar quality or hidden costs.


Check References

Ask the contractor for a list of references from previous storm repair projects. Contact these references to inquire about their experiences with the contractor, the quality of work, and whether the project was completed on time and within budget.


Inquire About Permits

Ensure the contractor is knowledgeable about local building codes and permitting requirements. They should be willing to handle the permitting process for you.


Review the Contract

Carefully review the contract, ensuring it includes all the necessary details, such as the scope of work, materials to be used, a project timeline, payment schedule, and warranty information. Don't proceed without a written and signed contract.


Communication and Professionalism

Pay attention to the contractor's communication and professionalism. A reputable contractor should be responsive, open to your questions and concerns, and clear in their communication.


Trust Your Instincts

If you have any doubts or feel uncomfortable with a contractor, it's best to continue your search for a more suitable and trustworthy option.


Get Everything in Writing

Before work begins, make sure all details, including changes to the project, are documented in writing. This helps avoid misunderstandings and disputes later.


Questions? We're here to help.

Finding a reputable storm renovation contractor for storm repairs in Texas requires due diligence and research. Taking the time to vet potential contractors can save you from headaches and problems down the road.


When it comes to addressing and resolving storm damage, you can rely on, Bishop Builders. With our expertise and experience as storm renovation contractors, we will assess the extent of the damage, provide the necessary repairs or replacements, and restore the integrity of your home.

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Chris Bishop brings over 30 years of expertise to the construction industry in Texas. With a comprehensive understanding of construction techniques, materials, and project management, Chris oversees every aspect of the building process, ensuring exceptional quality and attention to detail.

 

Dennis Hall is the strategic business operations specialist. Dennis plays a pivotal role in the success and growth of Bishop Builders with his adept handling of contracts, seamless communication with clients, and financial management. Together, Chris and Dennis form a dynamic partnership, combining construction expertise with astute business acumen to deliver outstanding results.

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