SCAMMERS AND FRAUDSTERS ARE ALWAYS ACTIVE AFTER A DISASTER HITS AND THEY DON'T CARE HOW THEY STEAL YOUR MONEY
Preparing for an approaching weather disaster is stressful enough without worrying about scammers who want to take advantage of the situation and steal your money in your time of need. If you find yourself in the unfortunate situation of needing home repairs after a storm, know what to look for to help you separate good contractors from scammers and cheats looking for a quick payday.
AVOID CONTRACTORS WHO CONTACT YOU
Scammers and shady contractors are always hard at work, even if no natural disaster has hit your area. But they are especially active after any kind of weather event that unleashes widespread damage because it's easy to blend in with the good guys and easier to get into your pockets. If a contractor calls you or shows up at your door and you did not request any services, turn them away. Nearly all honest and legitimate contractors have a lot of work lined up and don't need to go out searching for it.
These types of scammers contact you after a storm and claim to be "doing work in your neighborhood." They work by pointing out obvious and often expensive damage to your home, as well as hidden damage despite doing no inspection. They might request large deposits or the entire cost of repairs up front. If you pay them, they may even start work as a show of good faith, often to get you to pay more money for other newly discovered problems, before taking off with your money. They may even contact and/or take payment from your insurance company without completing work.
ALWAYS GET MULTIPLE ESTIMATES BEFORE COMMITTING TO A JOB
When shopping for insurance, you probably aren't going to buy the first policy from the first company that quotes you a price. The same should apply to home repairs and virtually all other types of jobs. While it may be tempting to jump on the first bid for the job to start work sooner, you can probably save hundreds or even thousands of dollars by getting multiple estimates from multiple contractors.
Some contractors have higher labor costs than others. But there are contractors who inflate their costs after a disaster to take advantage of your desire for a quick resolution. So, whether you have roof damage or a downed tree in your yard, get multiple estimates before committing to getting the job done. You may also not want to share details of your estimates with other contractors since each estimate should be completed after a thorough inspection. In the end, you might find that one contractor is overcharging for labor or wanting to do work that other contractors feel isn't necessary.
HAVE A WRITTEN CONTRACT WITH A GUARANTEE
We always tell everyone to get a written contract for any agreement, not just home repairs. So, make sure that you have a written contract that clearly states the terms, including exactly what the contractor will do, the prices to be charged, and when you are expected to make payment. If you don't have a written contract, good luck trying to prove your case if you must take your contractor to court or if you need to have your credit card company reverse any charges. And when you do get a contract, read it before signing it. You might agree to absurd terms. Reputable contracts will guarantee their work for a set period.
We still do some things with a handshake and a nod in the south. But home repairs shouldn't be one of those things. So, if a contractor wants a handshake, look elsewhere unless you want to add more stress down the road with incomplete or bad repairs and no legal recourse. You should also avoid 'friends of friends' or 'this guy I know' type of contractors. Many of them don't do that type of work as a day job and probably aren't licensed.
OTHER TYPES OF COMPLAINTS
If you have a complaint about a contractor, you should file your complaint with the Arkansas Attorney General's Office as soon as possible. You may wish to report poor workmanship, overcharging, charging for work not performed, or charging for work that was not authorized. The Attorney General can take legal action against contractors who violate the law.
BE EXTREMELY CAUTIOUS IF THE CONTRACTOR:
Appears unannounced at your doorstep.
Call or email you unexpectedly.
Show up and say they are doing work in your neighborhood.
Makes you feel pressured to decide and sign a contract for the work immediately.
Offers a "special deal" that's only available today.
Shows you a problem that you've never seen before
Shows you a problem that you are pretty sure wasn't there before the contractor arrived.
Wants full payment, especially if in cash.
Doesn't have identification or permits.
Doesn’t have a business license.
Insists you leave your home to inspect damage