Wisconsin Better Business Bureau: After the snow: BBB tips for hiring a contractor

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 20, 2012
CONTACT: Lisa Schiller, Media Relations
PHONE: 414- 847- 6055
FAX: 414-302- 0355
E-MAIL: [email protected]

December 20, 2012, Milwaukee, Wis.—When snow, wind or rain storms move through the area, they topple trees, down power lines and cause damage to homes, buildings and fences. Unfortunately, the aftermath of any storm often brings out people looking to take advantage of those who need help cleaning up and repairing storm damage. People who are anxious to get their homes and yards back to normal should be on the lookout for scams involving clean-up efforts, tree or limb removal, and fence, roof and home repairs.

“Be leery of contractors who go door-to-door offering to do clean up or repair work,” said Ran Hoth, president/CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Wisconsin.” “In some instances, a homeowner may pay more for a job that’s not sufficient.”

Homeowners should exercise caution when dealing with door-to-door solicitors, who may not be licensed or insured, may not do a good job, and may not be around later to complete or correct work once they realize repairs weren’t done properly. Every time a storm hits, the BBB receives many complaints about unethical contractors, including storm chasers.

Hoth urges consumers to check out a company before hiring them to do work. “You can even check out someone who shows up at your door while they are standing on your front porch by going to bbb.org on your smartphone,” he said. There is a vast difference between the reputable contractors and those that are simply out to make fast cash.

BBB Tips for Dealing with Storm Damage:
Be wary of door-to-door workers who show up unsolicited offering to make repairs. This includes companies offering to make roof repairs or remove fallen trees and branches.

Check with your insurance company about policy coverage and specific filing requirements. Keep copies of receipts for emergency repairs for reimbursement later.

Although you may be anxious to get things back to normal, avoid acting in haste. Don’t be pressured into signing a contract. Do your homework first, and read and understand all aspects of the contract.

Take time to shop around for contractors, get competitive bids and check out the contractor with the BBB at bbb.org.

Get everything in writing. Prepare a written agreement with anyone you hire that outlines the work to be done, the materials to be used, the price breakdown for both labor and materials and make sure there is a “start” and “completion” date. Review it carefully before signing. Vague clauses such as “repair siding” are invitations for abuse.

Never pay the full amount of repairs in advance. 30 percent is a standard down payment, if you must make a down payment at all. Pay with a credit card if possible; credit cards offer you more protection if the work is not completed as specified. Never pay with cash.

The BBB can provide you a list of BBB Accredited Businesses to choose from, including roofers, tree removal companies, fence companies, snow removal companies and other home repair businesses. Just go to bbb.org and click on “Find a BBB Accredited Business.”

Consumers who feel that they have been taken advantage of by scammers or storm chasers are urged to file a complaint with the BBB.

For more information or further inquiries, please contact the Wisconsin BBB at www.wisconsin.bbb.org or 414-847-6000 (metro Milwaukee), 920-734-4352 (Appleton), 608-268-2221 (Madison) or 1-800-273-1002 (elsewhere in Wisconsin).

About BBB
For 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping consumers find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2011, consumers turned to BBB more than 100 million times for Business Reviews on more than 4 million companies and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at www.bbb.org. The Council of Better Business Bureaus is the umbrella organization for 115 local, independent BBBs across the United States and Canada, as well as home to its national programs on dispute resolution and industry self-regulation.