Storm chasers knock on many homeowners’ front doors.
Once the winds die down and the rain stops lashing the roof, homeowners are faced with another danger: scurrilous storm chasers who prey on people desperate to clean up after the storm.
In a new poll of members nationwide, Angie’s List found 34 percent of respondents who have experienced storm damage have been approached by a door-to-door contractor. Fourteen percent of those respondents hired the contractors. Most of them suffered for it.
In one of these cases, an F5 tornado took out most of the homes in a neighborhood. “One of our members said she was desperate and didn’t know what to do,” said Angie’s List Founder Angie’s Hicks. “That homeowner was taken by almost everyone she had dealings with.”
Angie’s List, (www.angieslist.com), the nation’s leading provider of local service company ratings has been warning consumers for years about fly-by-night contractors who offer great and quick service in exchange for cash payment. More often than not, these contractors pocket the money, perform shoddy, little, or no work and disappear, Hicks said.
“About 20 percent of our respondents said their storm damage repair bill was more than $10,000. That’s a lot of money, and it’s easy to see why an offer for quick and cheaper work would be tempting,” she said. “But usually, the last person you want repairing your home is the first guy who comes by offering help — especially if it’s a cash-only proposition.”
Unreliable contractors present a danger even under sunny skies, it’s in a storm situation that they seem to swarm, feeding on homeowners’ desire to get their lives back to normal, Hicks said. Even though many tornadoes, hurricanes and flooding are seasonal risks for homeowners, 44 percent of poll respondents admit that they still don’t prepare for weather disasters.
5 tips to avoid shady storm chasers:
Just say no
If a stranger comes to your storm-ravaged yard offering to repair your roof, remove trees or do other major repair work for cash upfront, just say no. Chances are, he or she will take your money and disappear, leaving you with little or no recourse.
When massive storms hit, tree services, plumbers, roofers and hauling companies are in high demand and the best performers are generally the busiest. Beware the company with time on its hands when every other company can’t even answer the phones.
Do your research
Check to get some insight into local service companies. Check the status of the contractor’s bonding and liability insurance.
Get written estimates
Though your situation might seem to be one of desperation, avoid settling on the first contractor who comes along and offers to do the job. Take enough time to get at least a few different estimates on the job covering price, materials and a timeline for completing the job in writing. It’ll be helpful later if things go wrong.
Weigh the risks
You might get lucky working with an independent provider who lists his truck as a permanent address, but you will have few options if the job goes awry or the provider disappears
For homeowners with water damage, cleaning up the mud and water-soaked belongings can seem like the biggest task at hand. But drying out that area is equally important because if left damp too long, dangerous mold can grow.
Steps for cleaning & killing the mold growth:
- Damp wipe: Mold can generally be removed from hard surfaces by scrubbing with water and detergent. It is important to dry the surface quickly.
- Wear protective gear: Protect your hands with gloves and your eyes with goggles.
- Discard: Remove damaged materials and seal in plastic bags.
- Follow up: Revisit the site. It should show no signs of water damage or mold growth.
Tips for hiring a professional for a remediation project during serious mold growth:
- Testing for mold: To ensure you’ve taken care of any mold issue or to determine if you have unseen mold, hire a professional remediator. If you’re hiring out the cleanup, test the area both before and after clean up.
- Understand the process: Know what the company plans for the remediation. Ask what is going to happen, when it will happen and how it may affect you. Ask about containment. How will they prevent the movement of mold spores from one area of the home to another? How long will it take?
- Check references & get estimates: Ask your provider for references and call those people.
- Certification: Mold remediators should follow U.S. Environmental Protection Agency mold remediation guidelines. You can also check the National Association of Mold Professionals (NAMP).
- Check your insurance: Not all mold damage is covered by your homeowner’s insurance policy. Check your policy because coverage and limitations vary.
Tips to avoid future basement flooding:
- Check your gutters: Make sure you gutters are cleaned out regularly (as well as after storms) and are flowing freely, rather than allowing water to pool around your foundation.
- Seal it up: Seal cracks and holes in the concrete block walls.
- Waterproof: Paint the basement walls with specialized waterproofing paint.
- Check those pipes: Check for water leaks where pipes enter the basement.
- Install a sump pump: This will help ensure unwanted water stays out of your basement.
*1,085 Angie’s List members took this poll. Responses are representative of Angie’s List members but not the general public.