The other night I was hanging out with my 8 month old son when unexpectedly our doorbell rang. As I walked to the door I was thinking its 7:00PM, on a Monday night, and I am not expecting anyone, who could this be? Well, when I got to the door I saw a man with a name badge and I immediately thought here we go with a magazine solicitation. To my surprise, the man introduced himself as an “out of town” contractor. He told me that I had hail damage on the siding of my house and that his business could fix it for free.
For free!? Biting my tongue, I was thinking this next part of his sales presentation should be really good. He explained that hail damage is covered on my homeowner insurance and all the repairs that his company performs would be paid in full by my insurance company. Then he handed me his company flyer saying that my homeowner insurance rates may go up but that would happen anyway so why not get my damage repaired for free. He even offered to pay for my homeowner insurance deductible if I let them put his business sign in my yard. All I had to do was sign up for a free inspection by their “specialists” to get the process started.
Is this deal too good to be true? Well it is hard to say in my circumstance since I did not let his company perform the “free” inspection based on finding hail damage on my house while it was dark outside. However, this situation does highlight some best practices when hiring contractors after a storm hits your neighborhood.
Most contractors are reputable business people. But each year, there are a few dishonest ones who chase storms from state to state. They may try to convince you that you have hail or other damage and need a new roof when you really don’t. They’ll ask to be hired for the work, explaining that your insurance company will pay for the repairs.
Most homeowner policies cover damage caused by hail and windstorms, but they will not cover the cost to replace a roof or siding when no damage has occurred. Since the work these dishonest contractors offer may not be of the highest quality, it is highly recommended that you get a second—even a third—opinion before starting any contract work. It’s not fair to you to have your roof, once in excellent condition, altered so that it is inferior in quality.
What you can do
If you’re beginning to repair or rebuild after a storm, or even if you are just planning a home improvement project, keep these tips, recommended by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, in mind for choosing contractors wisely:
– Persons going door-to-door to damaged homes, or phoning victims and claiming to be building contractors, could be frauds. If callers solicit personal information such as Social Security or bank account numbers, they are not for real.
– Ask to see the laminated photo identification card; if they don’t have it, they are probably not for real.
– Get their PA contractor license number and verify they are registered on the PA Attorney General’s website.
– Check for complaints with your regional Better Business Bureau
– Get more than one estimate.
– Don’t be pushed into signing a contract right away.
– Get everything in writing. Cost, work to be done, time schedules, guarantees, payment schedules and other expectations should be detailed.
– Check references before deciding which contractor to choose.
– Never sign a contract without filling in all the blanks.
– Don’t pay a contractor in full until the work is complete.
– Problems or complaints can be reported by using the PA Attorney General’s online form.