Summertime brings sunshine and warm weather – but it can also bring damaging storms and tornados like those seen across northern Indiana last month. Storm damage can cause panic for victims, which may lead to rash and hasty decisions. This can lead a victim to hire an unknown or untrustworthy contractor, causing further damage.
Many times, consumers don’t know their options in the case of a natural disaster. It’s important to assess the damage to see if temporary repairs can be made to provide more time until permanent repairs can be undertaken. Be sure to choose contractors carefully and understand any documents being signed. Documentation can play a key role when working with both a contractor and an insurance company.
It is also important to understand the start and end date for any repair work so those dates can be communicated to all parties and so a payment date can be agreed upon between the consumer and the insurance company.
Use BBB’s tips when repairing storm damage:
- Contact your insurance company. It’s important to do this as soon as possible to inquire about policy coverages and specific filing requirements. This gets the ball rolling on the claim process. Do not make any permanent repairs until you get approval from your insurance company. Your insurer might not fully reimburse you for permanent repairs made without their authorization.
- Document everything. Document damage to your property (and autos); take pictures or video if possible. Any promises made orally should be written into the contract, including warranties on materials or labor. If you must, make temporary repairs to protect your home from the elements, be sure to save all receipts.
- Review all documents. Understand the terms and conditions and get copies of any warranties and guarantees. Be sure the name, address, and phone number of the contractor appear on all invoices and contracts. Insist on a written contract agreement with anyone you hire. It should specify the work to be done, the materials to be used, and the price breakdown for both labor and materials.
- Get references. Check with friends and relatives and visit BBB.org to obtain free business reviews on any business you are considering hiring. Local or national companies may both do an excellent job with your storm damage repair needs, but if you choose to do business with a company that is not local, be sure to understand who will be taking care of any service needs that may arise after the completion of the project.
- Read and understand anything you are asked to sign. Avoid signing an "estimate" or "authorization" form before you have decided to hire a particular contractor. Pay special attention to any details in bold, that are underlined or that you need to initial. Don’t make a final payment or sign a completion agreement until all work is done to your satisfaction.
If you spot a scam, whether you've lost money or not, report it to BBB’s Scam Tracker at BBB.org/ScamTracker and the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Your story can help other consumers avoid similar scams.