Angie’s List: Consumers Should be on the Lookout for Shady Contractors Chasing Recent Storms

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In the wake of recent severe thunderstorms, wind and hail damage, homeowners could now be faced with another disaster: unscrupulous storm-chasing contractors. Angie's List has advice for avoiding these contractors and hiring reliable help instead.

“If a person you don’t know comes to your door promising to help if you’ll just pay in cash, just say ‘no,’” says Angie Hicks, founder of Angie’s List.

In the wake of recent severe thunderstorms, wind and hail damage, homeowners could now be faced with another disaster: unscrupulous storm-chasing contractors.

Storm chasers often go from house to house looking for people who need help cleaning up storm damage, offering promises of quick repairs for cash up-front.

“If a person you don’t know comes to your door promising to help if you’ll just pay in cash, just say ‘no,’” says Angie Hicks, founder of Angie’s List, which provides consumer reviews on local contractors and service companies. “Severe storms can be traumatic, and people trying to put their lives back together shouldn’t have to worry about trouble from shady contractors. With just a little research, you can find a reliable person who will get you back on the feet and keep you there.”

Roofs often take the brunt of the damage from storms, especially hail. Hail damage costs U.S. homeowners more than $1 billion in property damage each year. Only the destruction wrought by wind storms and tornadoes causes more damage, according to the National Weather Service. Be sure to know what your insurance policy covers in the event of hail damage. If you have damage, contact your agent as soon as possible.

Some storm-chasing roofing companies tell homeowners that they need their roof replaced, when it often just needs a few repairs. This is why hiring a company with a good reputation is so important, because few homeowners want to – or can – climb up on their roof and figure out what’s really needed.

“If your home suffers damage, get estimates from at least three licensed, local contractors with a good reputation,” Hicks said. “Understand that the best service companies are going to be the busiest, so patience is key. You might have to wait a little longer to get the work done, but you want to have it correctly the first time. You don’t want to get stuck paying for the same job to be done twice because you hired the first person to come knocking on your door offering help.”

Angie’s List: Tips to avoid shady storm chasers:

  •     What not to do: 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.
  •     Do your research: Check Angie’s List to get some insight into local service companies. Check the status of the contractor’s bonding and liability insurance coverage too.
  •     Don’t cave into pressure or scare tactics.
  •     High-quality tree services, plumbers, roofers and hauling companies are in high demand when storms hit. Beware the company with time on its hands when every other similar company can’t even answer the phones.
  •     Don't hire the first contractor who comes along and offers to do the job. Get at least three estimates to compare.
  •     Get estimates in writing and a contract that includes the project price, materials to be used and a timeline for completion.

Angie’s List: Tips on what to do after a storm:

  •     Do a visual inspection: Look at your home, automobiles and other property exposed to the storm. Take a picture of any damage you find.
  •     Call at least three reputable contractors: Get apples to apples estimates for the repairs you need.
  •     Review your insurance policy: Ensure you know what you’re entitled to. Some insurance companies surcharge or up rate for any claim, therefore it is best to know if you have damage before you call.    
  •     If there is damage: Call your insurance agent right away to file a claim.
  •     Check contractor credentials: Check that your contractor has a good reputation, is licensed, insured and can do the work.
  •     Get it in writing Expect to pay a deposit for materials, but always get a contract in writing that discusses payment terms. Make sure the contract includes a termination clause, should the contractor fail to meet your guidelines. Never pay cash in advance for work.

Angie’s List collects consumer reviews and helps connect consumers with the best local service providers in areas from home improvement to health care. More than 1 million members subscribe to and rely on Angie’s List to help them make the best hiring decisions in more than 550 service categories. Members get unlimited access to local ratings via Internet or phone, exclusive discounts, the Angie's List Magazine and help from the Angie’s List complaint resolution service. For the latest consumer news, visit the Angie’s List news center.

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Cheryl Reed
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