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BBB warns against ‘storm chasers’ after sudden severe weather

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Special to The Messenger

BBB offers these tips for those who experienced damage to their homes or property in the recent severe weather

Several areas across Texas saw heavy storms this past weekend and homeowners in the central and southern parts of the state may be finding themselves having to deal with damage from lightning, hail, high winds and even a possible small tornado that hit San Gabriel.

Now is the time when ‘storm chasers,’ unethical contractors coming through areas trying to con people out of their money for property repairs, could come out to take advantage of the situation. It’s an important time to remember to do your research before deciding on a contractor to use for repair work and never pay full price for a project up front.

Better Business Bureau offers the following additional tips for those homeowners with damage to help them protect their money and property:

  • Contact your insurance company. Ask about your policy coverage and specific filing requirements. Save all receipts, including those for food, temporary lodging, or other expenses that may be covered under your policy. Your insurance company may also have recommended contractors, but still make sure to check those contractors first at bbb.org.
  • Do your research. Find businesses you can trust on BBB.org. There are BBB Business Profiles on more than a million home contractors. Look for the BBB Seal as well. A BBB Accredited Business meets eight standards for trust, including advertising honestly, telling the truth and being transparent. Check the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation to make sure if the type of work your contractor will be doing requires a license. Get references from friends and relatives.
  • Resist high-pressure sales. Some storm chasers use tactics such as the “good deal” you’ll get only if you hire the contractor on the spot. Be proactive in selecting a contractor and not reactive to sales calls on the phone or door-to-door pitches.
  • Be especially careful of door-to-door contractors. Many municipalities require a solicitation permit if sales people go door-to-door. Ask for identification. Check their vehicle for a business name, phone number and Texas license plate.
  • Don’t sign over insurance checks to contractors. Get an invoice from the contractor and pay them directly (preferably with a credit card, which offers additional fraud protection over other forms of payment). Don’t sign any documents that give the contractor any rights to your insurance claims. If you have questions, contact your insurance company or agent.
  • Be wary regarding damages you can’t see. While most contractors abide by the law, be careful allowing someone you do not know to inspect your roof and other areas of your house. An unethical contractor may create damage to get work. The same goes for attics, crawl spaces, ducts and other places you cannot easily access or see for yourself.