Don’t get soaked by storm chasers

storm chasers

Spring is here, summer is on its way, and with the changing seasons comes the increasing chance of severe weather. Perhaps you’ve had contractors knocking at your door after a big hailstorm asking to view the damage to your roof or siding. While you may have found legitimate help this way, be aware there are many individuals who try to take advantage of damaging weather by trying to commit fraud against you as well as insurance companies.

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) says these “storm chasers” are often from out of state, move quickly from town to town, and use high-pressure tactics to get homeowners to put a down payment on work that may never be done.

Here are a few tips to protect yourself from these scams:

  • Hire a contractor based on referrals. Ask friends and neighbors for recommendations and ask contractors for references. Before you sign a contract, contact DATCP to see if they have received complaints about the business.
  • Try to get a local contractor. And ask them if they are subcontracting your job—be careful if they’re using outside subcontractors.
  • Get lien waivers from anyone you pay for home repairs. Lien waivers protect you if the person collecting the money does not pay the suppliers or workers.
  • Get a written contract with a start and completion date and warranty information. Make certain the contract states exactly what work is to be done and what materials are to be used. Never rely on a verbal commitment.
  • Ask to see the contractor’s state registration card. Any contractor you’re considering should show you their card.
  • Have someone watch the work being done. Check with your local building inspector to see if the work requires a permit. Have an inspector visit the job site before you make a final payment.
  • Request a copy of the contractor’s certificate of liability insurance.

In addition, you should also be aware of these important legalities:

  • Contractors cannot represent or negotiate with the customer’s home insurer on behalf of the customer. The contractor can, with the consent of the customer, discuss damages and costs associated with the repairs with the insurer.
  • Contractors cannot promise to pay all or some of a property insurance deductible.
  • Customers have a right to cancel the contract within three business days of being notified that their insurer has denied all or any part of the claim for work. Contractors must notify customers of this right.

If you’d like more information or need to file a complaint, visit the Consumer Protection Bureau.

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