Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – June 4, 2012 - The recent damage done by the tornado near Ligonier, PA brings out the best in people, as strangers reach out to help others in need. Unfortunately, the aftermath of a crisis can also bring out contractors who take advantage of those who have already been victimized.
Your Better Business Bureau is warning local residents affected by the recent storm to beware of storm chasers and out-of-town contractors that may solicit business.
“It is not uncommon for out-of-town storm chasers to solicit business after storms like the one we had over the weekend,” said Warren King, President of the Better Business Bureau. “Storm chasers may not have proper licensure for your area and may offer quick fixes or make big promises to which they won’t deliver.”
Your BBB offers the following tips for storm victims:
· Contractors must be registered with the PA Attorney General. Call 888-520-6680 or visit www.attorneygeneral.gov to check whether a contractor is registered.
· Many municipalities require a solicitation permit if sales people go do-to-door. Verify that they have to have a permit by contacting your local Township or Municipality. BBB suggests consumers be pro-active in selecting a contractor and not re-active to sales calls on the phone or door-to-door pitches.
· While most roofing contractors abide by the law, be careful allowing someone you do not know inspect your roof. An unethical contractor may actually create damage to get work.
· Request proof that the contractor has insurance covering workmen’s compensation, property damage and personal liability. Ask for a current copy of the insurance certificate for your records.
· Try to get at least 3-4 quotes from contractors, and insist that payments be made to the company, not an individual.
· Do not pay for the job in advance. Be wary of any contractor who demands full or half payment upfront. The law states for a contract of more than $1,000, the contractor cannot accept a deposit in excess of 1/3 of the contract price or 1/3 of the contract price plus the cost of special order materials. Make sure you get a receipt from the contractor and that the contract properly accounts for the amount you’ve already paid.
· Resist high-pressure sales tactics such as the “good deal” you’ll get only if you hire the contractor on the spot.
· Before signing the contract, read it over in its entirety. Do not sign if there are blank lines or if there are statements you do not understand. Law requires a copy of the signed contract be given to you at the time of signing.
· Pay by credit card, if possible; you may have additional protection if there’s a problem.
· Never make final payment or sign an affidavit of final release until you are satisfied with the work done and know that all subcontractors and suppliers have been paid.
· Check that the contractor’s vehicle has signs or markings on it with the business name, phone number and Pennsylvania license plates.
BBB is also warning area contractors to beware of storm chasers who are willing to pay local construction companies substantial amounts of money to use a local company’s established name, reputation and phone so they can masquerade as a local business. After doing repairs paid by insurance companies, the out of state contractors leave the area. Many contractors who agree to let these storm chasers use their name regret their decision once they are left holding the bag of unsatisfied customers due to poor workmanship and/or unfulfilled warranties.
Storm victims should never feel forced to make a hasty decision or to choose an unknown contractor. Start With Trust. For reliable information, lists of BBB Accredited Businesses by industry and Business Reviews you can trust on local companies, visit www.bbb.org or call 877-267-5222.
About the BBB System
BBB is an unbiased organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Businesses that earn BBB accreditation contractually agree and adhere to the organization’s high standards of ethical business behavior. BBB provides objective advice, free business BBB Reliability ReportsTM and charity BBB Wise Giving ReportsTM, and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. To further promote trust, BBB also offers complaint and dispute resolution support for consumers and businesses when there is difference in viewpoints. The first BBB was founded in 1912. Today, 116 BBBs serve communities across the U.S. and Canada, evaluating and monitoring more than 4 million local and national businesses and charities. Please visit www.bbb.org for more information about the BBB System.