The recent damage done by tornadoes in the Miami Valley brings out the best in people, as neighbors and strangers reach out to help others in need. Unfortunately, the aftermath of a crisis also brings out contractors who take advantage of those who have already been impacted. Better Business Bureau is warning residents affected by the recent storms to beware of storm chasers and out-of-town contractors soliciting business.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to those impacted by these devastating tornadoes. Unfortunately, some will be swindled by dishonest contractors and bogus charities. Victims of severe storm damage should take their time and carefully choose contractors to hire to help with repairs and charities to donate to. Start with companies and charities you can trust by going to BBB.org or calling 937-222-5825 or 800-776-5301.
BBB offers the following tips for storm victims:
• Get and compare multiple written estimates based on the same specifications. Make sure the contractors create itemized estimates so you can compare cost, efficiency and warranties.
• Recognize the red flags. Don’t fall for high-pressure sales tactics. Be wary of door-to-door workers who claim to have left-over materials from a job down the street or who do not have a permanent/local place of business.
• Verify the contractor is registered to do business in Ohio. Visit www.sos.state.oh.us and look under business services.
• Make sure contractors are licensed, bonded and insured as appropriate.
• Remember, if it seems to good to be true, it probably is. Many fly-by-night contractors provide low, low estimates on projects, but you may get what you pay for. Consider reputation and years of service when hiring help.
• Don’t pay for work in full in advance. Never pay more than half before the contractor starts repairs and don’t pay the remaining balance until you are satisfied with the work. A good guideline is to pay by the rule of thirds: pay one-third deposit, one-third when the job is 50% complete and one-third once the job is completed.
• Get everything is in writing. Make sure that the full scope of the work is explained in the contract including payment terms, material and labor prices, cleanup and disposal of waste. All verbal agreements need to be included, as well as warranties and guarantees.
• Check that the contractor’s vehicle has signs or markings on it with the business name, phone number and license plates for your state.
• Check out charities before lending support. Make sure donations will go to legitimate and reputable charities and relief efforts that have the capability to help those in need. You can check out charities at bbb.org.
It never fails that natural disasters like tornadoes attract shady contractors. Some out-of-state contractors may even set up shop in the area trying to capture construction work. BBB warns area contractors to beware of storm chasers who are willing to pay local construction companies substantial amounts of money to use a local business’ established name, reputation and phone so they can masquerade as a local business.
BBB has seen this happen in other areas of the country. After doing repairs paid by insurance companies, the out-of-state contractors leave the area. Many contractors who agreed to let these storm chasers use their name regret their decision once they were left holding the bag of unsatisfied customers due to bad workmanship and/or unfulfilled warranties.
The writer is the president and CEO of Better Business Bureau serving Dayton and Miami Valley.