Hurricane season is here, 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 home improvement scam?
Homeowners facing the task of home repair or renovations following a storm or natural disaster are particularly susceptible to scams from “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 — a home improvement scam?
Telltale Signs of a Home Improvement Scam
It's essential to understand that a contractor's professional appearance doesn't guarantee their trustworthiness. Conversely, a highly reliable contractor may not always exude a professional demeanor. Therefore, when you encounter individuals offering their services after a natural disaster or major weather event, scrutinize their words and actions carefully.
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 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 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 contractor?
Ask for Recommendations: Seek recommendations from friends, family, neighbors, or colleagues who have had similar storm damage repairs. Personal referrals are often one of the most reliable ways to find trustworthy contractors.
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 contractor for storm repairs 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, we will assess the extent of the damage, provide the necessary repairs or replacements, and restore the integrity of your home.