Too often when your home has experienced damage due to a severe weather event or a fire, the first people to show up are the last people you want around – the Chasers. The terms “Storm Chasers” and “Fire Chasers” refer to restoration or roofing contractors who monitor scanners for weather alerts and emergency service communications and then rush out to a community and take advantage of vulnerable consumers. Unfortunately, catastrophes bring out opportunists who employ aggressive or unethical tactics to convince homeowners to use their services. You’ve already experienced a traumatic event; anxious to make repairs and get your life back normal. But before you hire a contractor, use caution, avoid storm chasers, and prevent being ripped off.
Are You Being Chased?
Severe storms are not uncommon during this time of year and people who experience weather-related property damage should be aware of potential storm chasers. Many storm chasers will solicit door-to-door without being properly registered through the PA Attorney General’s Office and without obtaining necessary solicitation permits that are often required by local municipalities. It’s therefore helpful to know what to look for when contractors knock on your door to offer their services. Even one of the red flags below should be enough to stop a homeowner in their tracks and alert them of questionable storm-chasing activity:
Using high pressure sales tactics.
Knocking on your door and asking to inspect your property.
Saying they represent your insurance company.
Offering to pay the insurance deductible
Demanding a large down payment and/or offering suspiciously low prices
Wanting to estimate damage/cost as opposed to having your insurance adjuster estimate a reliable quote
Passing out flyers throughout your neighborhood
Avoid Storm Chasers
Do Some Research – The internet is a great resource to discover companies you can trust. If a contractor approaches you after a storm, go online and look for their business. Specifically, consider any reviews they might have (or if they have any at all), and look at their website. Ask your friends who they hired for their repairs and ask for references.
Contact your Insurance Agent – It’s fine to call a contractor before calling your insurance agent. In fact, if there’s flooding damage, it’s highly encouraged to get it checked out fast. But before signing a contract, make sure you inquire about insurance policy coverage and filing a claim. Your agent can also verify the trustworthiness of a contractor. The insurance company will send an adjuster, who will inspect your home for damage and provide an estimate for how much the insurance company will cover. Keep copies of any receipts for reimbursement.
Obtain Several Estimates from Qualified Contractors – To avoid getting ripped off with high prices, make sure you receive estimates, using the same set of specifications, from at least two contractors. By comparing their estimates, you should be able to tell whether you’re receiving a fair quote.
Check for Registration and Insurance – Verify contractors you are considering hiring are properly registered with the PA Attorney General’s Office and have up-to-date workers compensation and liability insurance. Request the company’s current certificates of insurance.
Get Everything in Writing – Make sure you receive a copy of the contract and that all details of the project are listed before signing. If the company makes any verbal promises, make sure it is included in writing. Vague clauses such as “repair roof” are invitations for abuse.
Never Pay in Full in Advance – While many businesses may ask for a deposit, no more than one-third of the job should be paid up front. Be sure the contract specifies the schedule for releasing payments to the contractor. PA law actually states that no more than one-third of the job or one-third of the job plus the cost of any special order materials can be paid up front for contracts over $5,000. Avoid paying with cash and never sign an affidavit of final release until you are satisfied with the work done.
Work with a Trustworthy Contractor
When you speak with a representative from a credible, professional, reliable restoration company like Xtreme Home Improvement, you will feel the difference in your gut. There’s no fast talk and no urgency. There’s full disclosure about the good news, the bad news and there’s a clear sense that we’re here to help get things back to normal. It really isn’t difficult to tell the difference between a Reputable Restoration Company and a Storm Chaser once you scratch beneath the surface:
A storm chaser will talk to you about roofs and siding and won’t be concerned about the other details – details that take time and don’t get reimbursed by insurance companies as quickly and easily. They will be in a hurry to get started, get done and get to the next job. They will be impatient for you to make a decision quickly, to push the sale as fast as possible. They will attempt to persuade you by any means possible to sign agreements to have them do the work for you, and a commitment authorizing them to negotiate directly with your insurance company’s claims adjuster. Basically, a storm chaser wants to make the greatest profit for themselves without consideration for making the homeowner whole, knowing where they can cut corners on quality and materials in order to increase the profit margin and how much they can squeeze out of the deal before they move on.
A reputable restoration company will inspect the roof and the walls, and every aspect of your home’s exterior to give you a complete assessment of your options, as well as an estimate of the cost to get your home fully restored.
A reputable restoration company will take the time to work directly with your insurance company to derive a cost to get your property back to pre-storm condition.
A reputable restoration company will give you time to review the paperwork, to discuss the matter with your spouse or partner, and patiently answer any questions you may have about the construction process and the insurance claims process, challenges you are likely to face, pros and cons of different options, and the materials they will use.
A reputable restoration company is extremely knowledgeable about the intricacies of dealing with homeowner’s insurance – including the pitfalls that can leave an unwitting homeowner hung out to dry – and will make sure you understand every step of the process and why it matters. They will take the time needed to meet with adjusters and consult with you.
Xtreme Home Improvement specializes in repairing and restoring storm damaged homes and businesses in Central PA. We have a local, permanent office in Lebanon County and we live and work in the area, meaning we will be around long after the storm has passes, your home or business is repaired, and your insurance claim is settled. We pride ourselves with having integrity, ethics and professionalism on every project we do. Your roofing, siding, windows, gutters, fences, and other components on your property that sustained damage will be properly fixed and inspected so that the work is done correctly. Let us be your complete restoration and construction solution to get your home or business back to beauty and function after unexpected damage. Ultimately … we represent YOUR best interests.