CHARLOTTE – The Better Business Bureau sees a significant increase in the number of inquiries on general contractors in the area in the wake of natural disasters, often doubling what is typical.
Consumers may be so overwhelmed by the damage they end up paying for something that makes the situation worse. “People need professionals to help with cleanup and repairs, but it is so important to do your due diligence before you write that check,” said Tom Bartholomy, president of the BBB in Charlotte.
Although not all storm chasers are scammers, they may lack the proper licensing, offer quick fixes or make big promises they can’t deliver.
BBB offers specific tips for victims of natural disasters:
• Do your research. BBB has business profiles for more than 500 area contractors at www.bbb.org. Check with the NC Licensing Board and get references from friends and relatives. Oftentimes, a Google search of the contractor’s name will reveal a bad reputation if there is one. Make sure whoever you hire is properly licensed to do the kind of work you need them to do.
• Contact your insurance company. Ask about your policy coverage and specific filing requirements. Your insurance company may have recommended contractors, but beware of any contractor that claims to have been sent by your insurance company.
• Resist high-pressure sales. Some storm chasers use tactics such as the “good deal” you’ll get only if you hire them on the spot. Be proactive in selecting a contractor and not reactive to sales calls on the phone or door-to-door pitches. Consumers should never feel forced to make a hasty decision.
• 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 local license plates.