Beware of Storm Chasers in aftermath of severe storms

The Better Business Bureau serving Nebraska, South Dakota, The Kansas Plains and Southwest Iowa is warning both businesses and residents to use caution when hiring companies to make repairs in the wake of the damaging storms that moved through the area on Sunday.

Some people might be dealing with tree damage, electrical issues or damage to roofs and siding. Storms like these often attract traveling workers commonly known as “storm chasers” or “travelers” offering their services. BBB urges consumers to use caution when dealing with these companies, as many of them are not reputable.

Storm chasing has become a multi-million dollar industry, complete with computerized hail forecasting, teams of out-of-state installers and trained salespeople who go door-to-door soliciting work. These firms typically set up temporary shops in the area to capture construction work caused by storm damage. Sometimes they canvass the area with flyers or go from door to door offering their services. “While some of these contractors may offer a low price and fast repairs, they may not stand behind their work,” said BBB President and CEO Jim Hegarty. “If the contractor is from out-of-state, who will service the warranty if problems arise later? Consumers should ask questions.”

BBB is also warning area contractors to beware of “storm chasers” who are willing to pay local construction companies substantial amounts of money to use their business’s established name, reputation and phone so they can masquerade as a local entity.

“We have seen this happen before,” said Hegarty. “After doing repairs paid by insurance companies, the out-of-state contractors left the area. Many contractors who agreed to let storm chasers use their name regret their decision after they were left ‘holding the bag’ of unsatisfied customers because of poor workmanship and/or unfulfilled warranties.”

Tips for Hiring a Company to Repair Storm Damage:

*  Get the company’s complete name, address and phone number. Be skeptical of any vague or hesitant answers, or no offers of contracts, brochures, or anything in writing. Beware of high-pressure sales tactics. A reputable company will be happy to let you check them out first.

*  Make sure your contractor has all the appropriate permits for the work they are doing and verify that the company has liability and worker’s comp insurance. If a contractor cannot provide proof, beware. If possible, verify that the insurance is active by contacting the contractor’s insurance company directly

*  If it is an out-of-town or out-of-state company, ask how any warranty issues or problems will be addressed after the work is done – and the company is gone.

*  Ask for references from previous jobs and check them out before signing the contract.

*  Before work starts, have a signed, written contract including start and completion dates, exact costs, specific work to be done, and warranty information. Read fine print carefully and understand all terms before signing.

*  Get at least 3-4 quotes from contractors and insist that payments be made to the company, not an individual.

*  If you have damage, check with your homeowners’ insurance to have an adjuster sent to determine if and how much they will cover to repair or replace damaged property.

*  Be highly suspicious of a contractor that asks you to pay for the entire job upfront. He may take your money and never return.

Disaster victims should never feel forced to make a hasty decision or to choose an unknown contractor. Start with trust by visiting bbb.org or by calling your BBB at 800-649-6814 or 800-856-2417 (KS only) to get Business Reviews or lists of BBB Accredited repair firms.

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