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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

BUFFALO — Storms this week in Western and Central New York caused downed trees, flooding and power outages, leaving some homeowners with severe property damage. Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York is warning people whose homes were damaged to be on the lookout for unscrupulous contractors.

“It is important for homeowners to ask the contractors questions — even in dire situations — and hang onto your cash until they have all the answers and confidence the jobs will be done right,” said Warren Clark, president and CEO of BBB Upstate New York. “It pays to do your homework and find reputable local contractors that can make repairs and still be around for service after the job is complete.”

Every season, BBB receives calls and complaints about traveling workers offering their services. They are commonly known as “storm chasers.” BBB is urging everyone to use caution when hiring repair and clean up companies, since not all of them will be reputable. Depending on how severe the weather damage is, “storm chasers” may arrive from out-of-state offering to “help.” After the winds die down, scammers will go door-to-door with flyers advertising their services, offering to work with your insurance company, or offer on-the-spot help.

Contractors are often in high demand after storms. BBB reminds people to be wary of low prices and fast repairs since some businesses may not be able to stand behind their work. Also important to consider: if you hire someone from out of state, who will service the warranty if problems arise later?

BBB offers the following advice to homeowners with property damage:

  • Check with 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.
  • Stay calm. Although you may be anxious to get things back to normal, avoid letting your emotions get the better of you. Don't be pressured into making an immediate decision with a long-term impact. Make temporary repairs if necessary.
  • Start with trust. Click here for a list of accredited general contractors. If the repair is not urgent, get three competitive bids and references for companies that have been in business for at least one year.
  • Stay clear of door-to-door offers. Companies that come knocking with claims of left-over repair materials from a job “down the street” or that do not have a permanent place of business should raise a red flag. If workers show up claiming that your home is unsafe, have a professional inspect it if you’re concerned about structural damage.
  • Verify their insurance. Make sure the company you hire has liability and worker's comp insurance. If a contractor cannot provide proof of insurance, it can be a red flag.
  • Get it in writing. Written contract agreements are always best. It should specify the work to be done, the materials to be used, and the price breakdown for both labor and materials. Promises made orally should be written into the contract, including warranties on materials or labor.
  • Do not pay with cash. Never pay for repairs in advance, and do not pay with cash or check. Credit cards offer you the best protection should something go wrong. Once your cash is gone, it’s gone.
  • Be highly suspicious of requests for cash. If a contractor asks you to pay for the entire job upfront, find another contractor. BBB experience shows that many pay-first jobs often go incomplete. It might be okay to pay a deposit for certain jobs, but only after you have checked them out and checked with a trusted friend, relative or your insurance agent to see if payment of a deposit is customary for your particular job.

For more scam alerts, tips and other information you can trust, visit and follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

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