Imagine your home, your life’s work, up in flames and years of memories ravaged as you stand watching in shock and despair. You think to yourself “Where am I going to sleep tonight”? or “What am I going to do now?” The flames have not even been put to rest when you are hounded by people hoping to make a buck from your disaster. Your mind is too preoccupied with the loss of your possessions and the roof over your head to even think “How do these people even know I had a fire?” or “Where did all these people come from?” The problem victims of fire damage face, too often, are the predatory practices of Fire Chasers.
What are Fire Chasers?
Restoration contractors who use police scanners to locate active fire incidents for the purpose of soliciting fire damage restoration services at the scene. They target victims of fires and show up, uninvited, to take advantage of the situation and influence property owners to sign a contract when they are at their most vulnerable. Many homeowners have filed complaints and while those complaints vary in nature, it’s not uncommon to see allegations of misrepresentation, aggressive sales tactics, price gouging, bribery and shoddy or unfinished work. In some cases, complaints alleged fire chasers falsely claimed themselves to be sent by the homeowner’s insurance company or fire department, in order to get the sale. In most cases, Insurance Companies don’t use Fire Chasers or recommend them – they work outside the insurance process often networking with local municipal employees or public adjusters to secure work.
What is the Problem?
The victims of a fire intuitively know they need help. They know it will take time, effort, and money to return their property to pre-loss condition. And, they just want it to be “all better” as quickly as possible. But, in their panic and shock, with the pressure from the fire chasers, they may make choices they will regret later. These “ambulance chasers” of the industry start pushing you to make a decision so “They Can Help You” everybody talks a good game, but the question is “Can they deliver?”. It’s the “now or never” pressure that fire chasers put on property owners that often causes the victims to sign contracts before they’re ready. The pressure exerted to “hurry up” makes it difficult to do research and properly vet the company that’s putting them under pressure.
What is the Best Course of Action?
Should you suffer a loss, turn to your insurance agent for guidance and not some stranger. You will have many questions regarding insurance proceeds, replacement of your contents, temporary housing and how it will be paid, when you will be receiving your initial insurance check along with other important questions. Your insurance agent will be able to answer all these questions because they know your policy. You can have faith knowing that your insurance company is looking out for you and they will be abiding by the law. Seek help from those you know and trust.
There are a number of well-qualified and upstanding restoration companies in Central Pennsylvania but it’s important to be aware that not all companies abide by the same code of ethics. A reputable company is licensed, insured, and typically referred to you by your insurance company. A policy holder has the right to choose their own restoration company to secure their property or handle their repairs and that decision should be based on more than who hears it on the scanner and gets there first.
Who Can You Trust?
At Xtreme Home Improvement we find the practice of Fire Chasing unethical, because the pressure to make a decision only increases the suffering of the victims at a very difficult time. We wait to be called in by you, or by your insurance company. While there is always a sense of urgency after fire in a home or business, there is plenty of time for you to stop, catch your breath, and do some homework. The best research, however, is done proactively and feel free to contact us if you have any questions. We invite you to learn more about our fire damage services.