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Hit by Hail? BBB Advises Storm Victims to be on the Lookout for “Storm Chasers” 

A line of severe thunderstorms dropped hail on many communities in East Texas this week, causing damage to many homes and vehicles.  East Texans are no strangers to storm damage, but that does make us targets for fly by night contractors looking to take advantage of storm victims. Better Business Bureau (BBB) advises residents to be on the lookout for storm chasers who show up unannounced, offer to repair storm damage for a low price, require advance payment and make big promises on which they have no intention of delivering. BBB reminds consumers to be on the lookout for shady contractors looking to take advantage of storm victims.

“Encountering high winds, thunderstorms and the occasional tornado are a part of living in East Texas,” said Mechele Agbayani Mills, President & CEO of BBB Serving Central East Texas. “That means it is important to be wary of fly-by-night repair businesses who are ready to pounce on storm victims as soon as the weather breaks.”

BBB offers the following advice to homeowners before hiring a contractor:

Check with your insurance company about policy coverage and specific filing requirements. Save all receipts if temporary repairs are necessary. 

Although you may be anxious to get things back to normal, avoid letting your emotions get the better of you. Don’t be pressured into making an immediate decision with a long-term impact. Be proactive in selecting a business and not re-active to sales solicitations.

Take time to shop around and get at least three estimates based on the same specifications and materials. Check out references that are at least one year-old and verify licensing with local agencies. 

Be wary of door-to-door workers who claim to have left-over materials from a job “down the street” or who do not have a permanent place of business. If sales people go door-to-door, check to see if your community requires them to have solicitation permits.

Require a written contract agreement with anyone you hire. Be sure their name, address, license number, if applicable, and phone number is included in the contract. Read and understand the contract in its entirety, and never sign a blank contract. A copy of the signed contract is to be given to you at the time of signature. 

If one estimate seems much lower than the others and it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Many fly-by-night contractors’ below-cost bids seem attractive, but these contracts often are uninsured and perform substantial cancellation fees or liquidation damages are required if the homeowner decides not to use the contractor after insurance approval of the claim. 

Never pay for work in full in advance. The Better Business Bureau recommends a consumer never pay more than half before the contractor starts repairs and don’t pay the remaining balance until you are satisfied with the work. A good guideline is to pay by the rule of thirds: pay one-third deposit, one-third when the job is 50% complete, and one-third once the job is completed. 

 

Hire locally whenever possible. Chances are, if the company is not from the area, they are less likely to come back and make a repair should you find something they missed. 

Remember, great businesses are out there. Always look for the BBB seal; it’s the Sign of a Better BusinessSM. Start with companies you can trust by going to bbb.org. To report fraudulent activity or unscrupulous business practices, please call BBB at (903)581-5704 or use BBB Scam Tracker

About BBB: BBB is a nonprofit, business-supported organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Most BBB services to consumers are free of charge. BBB provides objective advice, free BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.3 million companies, 11,000 charity reviews, dispute resolution services, alerts and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. Visit bbb.org for more information. BBB offices can be found across the United States, Canada and Mexico, including BBB Serving Central East Texas, which was founded in 1985 and serves 19 counties.

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