(KTVI) - With strong storms sweeping across the Midwest and causing heavy damage in some areas, Better Business Bureau (BBB) warns consumers to be on the lookout for unlicensed or storm-chasing contractors seeking to cash in on the damage.
Fly-by-night contractors often go door to door after storms, offering to help victims clear debris or patch up homes. BBB handled 6,918 complaints against general contractors nationwide in the last year, including 525 in eastern Missouri and Southern Illinois. In addition, BBB received 9,097 complaints against roofers, including 339 in eastern Missouri and Southern Illinois.
After previous storms, BBB has taken complaints about contractors who took deposits from consumers and did little or no work. Some couldn’t be reached when consumers wanted refunds or were dissatisfied with the repairs. BBB has issued several warnings against individual roofers who took consumers’ money but did little or no work.
Michelle Corey, BBB President and CEO, advises consumers to check businesses out with BBB before writing a check. BBB Business Reviews give consumers vital information about how companies operate and whether they respond to complaints.
“Homeowners need to be sure that a contractor will honor promises and not just take their money and run,” Corey said. “Consumers need to make sure that the contractors are qualified and reliable before they sign a contract or pay any money.”
BBB tips for consumers and businesses looking for contractors to make repairs:
• Be cautious of door-to-door salespeople who use high-pressure sales tactics.
• Check with your insurance carrier before making major repairs. An adjuster may need to assess the damage, and the carrier may have recommendations for repairs or contractors.
• Seek at least three bids from prospective contractors based on the same specifications, materials and labor needed to complete the project.
• Ask whether the company is insured against claims covering workers’ compensation, property damage and personal liability in case of accidents. Consumers should obtain the name of the insurance carrier and call to verify coverage.
• Ask whether the contractor meets licensing and bonding requirements set by the state, county or city.
• Find out whether permits are needed before proceeding with the work. The contractor also should be aware of any required permits.
• Ask whether the contractor will provide a lien waiver upon completion of the job. A lien waiver is a statement by the contractor that all suppliers and subcontractors have been paid for their work.
• Read and understand the contract before signing. Get any verbal promises in writing. Include start and completion dates in the contract.
• Remember the rule of thirds. Pay one third at the start of the project, one third when work is 50 percent completed and one third after completion.
A BBB video on hiring contractors is available at http://youtu.be/PBn5M8_RkP0.
For more information to help you make smart, informed decisions about projects around your home, check with BBB by going online to www.bbb.org or by calling 314-645-3300.