Many parts of our nation, including Texas, have seen some significant storms this year. The National Weather Service has already recorded 3,500 severe storms involving hail, tornado or high winds. As devastating as losing your home can be, many people have seen further devastation through fraudulent contractors who claim to work with their home insurance companies to repair their houses. The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) issued a warning to consumers regarding fraud just this month. How can you protect yourself?
It's not uncommon for professionals to infiltrate neighborhoods that have been affected by a storm. They often go door-to-door offering to make repairs or clean up. While many of these professionals are legitimate, others take the homeowners money and never show up to work. Another tactic is to use inferior materials so they can pocket more of the profit.
The first rule is to always contact your insurance company before making any repairs. Secondly, be suspicious of anyone soliciting for work. Trustworthy contractors usually wait for customers to call them. They rarely solicit for work. Additionally, follow these tips.
- Get multiple estimates.
- Ask for everything in writing, including cost, time line and guarantees.
- Check their references
- Write down the salesperson's driver's license number and vehicle plate number for your records.
- Don't sign a contract that is blank. A dishonest person can fill in blanks later with unacceptable terms. If there are truly lines that do not apply, write "not applicable" on the line.
- Do not pay for services in full until the work is complete and you have verified it was up to code.
- Carefully review documents submitted to your insurance company.
- Do not rely on the contractor to interpret your insurance policy. Call your agent.
- If a contractor discourages you from contacting your insurance company, do not work with them.