Storm chasers – or traveling contractors – are usually on your doorstep within hours of any major weather event. Storm chasers look for consumers in desperate need of home repair and pressure them into making quick and ultimately expensive decisions. It’s tempting to give them the go-ahead to make repairs, especially if a storm leaves a gaping hole in your roof or siding.
In Maryland, home improvement contractors, subcontractors and salespersons are regulated and must be licensed by the Maryland Home Improvement Commission. According MHIC, “Home improvement work includes alteration, remodeling, repair or replacement of a building or part of a building used as a residence.” To lawfully conduct business, other types of companies are also licensed through your city or county. Residents should check the Business License Information System at www.blis.state.md.us.
Tips from Your BBB
Check with BBB to find business you can trust. Many times scam artists flock to severe weather disasters and move on, making them difficult to trace.
Call your insurance company before work begins to make sure all necessary procedures are followed according to your policy. If you do not follow your insurance company’s guidelines, you may be stuck with the entire bill. A common form of insurance fraud occurs when a contractor offers to overlook or pay a consumer’s deductible.
Get bids from at least three companies; be sure each provides their physical address. Compare address on estimate, business cards, trucks/vans, and even shirt identification – are their differences? Ask why.
Ask the business for references of recent jobs they’ve completed in the area (past few months) as well as jobs over a year ago – you want to do business with a local company and a company who is not “fly by night”. Ask customers about their experience with the business, quality of work and time frame it took to complete and overall satisfaction. Go see their work if at all possible.
Verify local license, general liability insurance and workers’ comp insurance.
Get everything in writing. The written contact includes all warranty information, timeline and pricing. Agree to a price before work begins. Specify all repairs, included materials, name brands, as desired and labor costs.
Pay large sums of money up front – pay only 1/3 of estimate and if necessary, arrange to pay upon delivery of the supplies and materials.
Pay by cash and it is optimal to pay by credit card.
Let payments get ahead of the work performed. A payment schedule should be outlined in your contract. Be sure that the final payment is not made until after completion of the project.
Give into high-pressure sales techniques, such as, “the price is only good today.” Take your time and make an educated decision; door-to-door solicitors are skilled in creating a heightened sense of urgency.