MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Many residents are left without power and lots of storm damage after this weekend's storms ripped through the Mid-South.
Although you may be anxious to get the mess cleaned up quickly, the Better Business Bureau is reminding homeowners that recovering from this kind of damage can take some time. But, there are those out to take advantage of situations like these as well.
Scammers often go door-to-door to people who have storm damage and offer a 'great deal' on clean-up or repair work if the homeowner hires them on the spot.
The BBB said in many situations, these individuals (called 'storm chasers') demand more money than the homeowner agreed to pay once the job is completed.
"Exercise caution when dealing with door-to-door solicitors, who may not be licensed or insured, may not do a good job and may not be around later to complete or correct work that wasn't properly done," said Randy Hutchinson, BBB of the Mid-South president. "Look for local license plates and company signage on their vehicles," Hutchinson added, "and get more information than just a cell phone number, which may be hard to trace if the contractors disappear."
Those dealing with clean up and repair from this storm should heed these BBB tips:
· Contractors doing work between $3,000 and $24,999 in Shelby County must hold a valid Tennessee Home Improvement license. Jobs over $25,000 require a valid General Contractor's license from the state. If your repair work totals more than $3,000, ask for proof of the business's Home Improvement or Contractor's license, then verify that information at verify.tn.gov.
· Be wary of door-to-door workers who show up unsolicited offering to make repairs. This includes companies offering to remove fallen trees and branches. Improper removal of fallen trees could cause further damage to your home. Just because someone has a chainsaw doesn't mean they know how to properly remove a fallen tree.
· Although you may be anxious to get things back to normal, avoid acting in haste. Don't be pressured into signing a contract or paying for repairs up front to get on someone's schedule.
· Make temporary repairs, such as tarping the hole in your roof, to prevent further damage until a reputable contractor can make permanent repairs. Remember that you may have to wait for a reputable company to get to your repairs.
· Check with your insurance company about policy coverage and specific filing requirements. Keep copies of receipts for emergency repairs for reimbursement later.
· Take time to shop around for reputable contractors. Get at least three estimates and check out contractors with BBB at bbb.org or by calling 901-759-1300 or 800-222-8754.
· BBB can provide you a list of reputable BBB Accredited Businesses to choose from, including roofers, tree removal companies, fence companies and other home repair businesses at bbb.org or by calling 901-759-1300 or 800-222-8754.
· Get everything in writing. The written agreement should outline the work to be done, the materials to be used, and the price breakdown for both labor and materials. Review it carefully before signing. Vague clauses such as "repair roof" are invitations for abuse.
· Never pay the full amount of repairs in advance. BBB and the Tennessee Board for Licensing Contractors advise that you pay no more than 30% up front. Pay with a credit card if possible, which offers you more protection if the work is not completed as specified.
· Read more BBB tips regarding home improvement scams at bbb.org/storm.
· Report scam attempts to bbb.org/scamtracker.