Business

10 ways to avoid storm-repair scams, from the BBB

Ryan Potane, left, and Frank Voss dump a load of debris on the street as they help a neighbor clean his flood-damaged home Thursday in Columbia.
Ryan Potane, left, and Frank Voss dump a load of debris on the street as they help a neighbor clean his flood-damaged home Thursday in Columbia. AP

The Better Business Bureau is advising consumers to watch out for unscrupulous contractors who might be on the prowl for repair jobs in the wake of the recent flooding in South Carolina.

The BBB is warning consumers of “storm chasers” who tend to descend on areas that are recovering from disasters. Charlotte BBB President Tom Bartholomy said such contractors flit from storm to storm and either take money from consumers without performing a job, never complete the job or “do really bad work.”

Here are 10 tips from the BBB to avoid getting scammed by a contractor:

1. Check their track record, including their BBB rating and BBB complaint history, at bbb.org. The Charlotte BBB can also be reached at (704) 927-8611 or (877) 317-7236.

2. Make cost comparisons and get at least three bids in writing. Consumers should make sure they compare the bids based on the same warranty, specifications, labor and time.

3. Check to see if the company has the proper state contractor board licensing.

4. Verify that the company has liability insurance, which protects the consumer from any damage the contractor causes, such as to the consumer’s property.

5. Ask for references from the contractor’s last three jobs and check them out before signing contracts.

6. Do not allow work to start without first getting signed, written contracts that include start and completion dates, exact costs, warranty information and specific work. Read the fine print carefully.

7. Don’t pay a contractor more than 25 to 33 percent of the total job cost as a deposit, and don’t pay in cash. Final payment should not be due until work is completed.

8. Get warranty information in writing and read the fine print carefully.

9. Make sure all workers are bonded, which protects consumers against theft or additional damage.

10. Use BBB-accredited businesses, which can be found at bbb.org/charlotte/accredited-business-directory.

Deon Roberts: 704-358-5248, @DeonERoberts

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