With tornado season in full swing, you may end up in a situation where you need to hire a contractor to make repairs to your home.
Unfortunately, the people you hire may not be who they say they are. In fact, the Better Business Bureau of Kansas City found in its 2016 annual risk report that home improvement scams are the riskiest type of scam in the area.
Here are some tips to help you search for the right contractor after a storm and to avoid scams:
1. Get multiple estimates
If the offer you get from a contractor seems too good to be true, it probably is. Reach out to multiple businesses to see what kind of estimates they're giving. Check out at least three, and watch how they conduct business before choosing one with whom you feel comfortable. Scammers know people who have experienced storm damage are in a rush to get things fixed. Don't let them exploit that sense of urgency.
2. Do your research
As you're getting estimates from multiple contractors, ask for references. If you can get in touch with a previous customer, you can ask questions about the contractor's timeliness and integrity. Check with them to see how close the final price was to the initial estimate and whether they'd use them again.
While you're at it, check the Better Business Bureau website to see if anyone has logged a complaint with the contractor. Other review sites like Yelp and Google Reviews can give you an idea of how contractors do business with their customers.
3. Watch behavior
As you're vetting contractors, keep an eye on how they approach you and the job. If you feel like they're pressuring you or rushing you through the process, you're better off avoiding the risk. Also, avoid contractors who go door-to-door selling their services. They could be part of a scam.
4. Get a recommendation
Ask family and friends for a recommendation. Knowing you received a contractor's name from a trusted source can give you peace of mind. It can also encourage the contractor to offer better service, knowing that there is a possibility to lose two repeat customers if the work isn't done well.
5. Limit how much you pay upfront
Scammers target homeowners after a storm because they know contractors often ask for an upfront payment to get the work started. Never pay more than half upfront, and avoid making more payments until the job is completed satisfactorily.
Always pay a contractor with a credit card or check. That way, if you never see the person again, you can dispute the charge with your bank. If you pay with cash or a money order, you might never see it again.
6. Make sure the contract is complete
Once you've chosen a contractor, check that the contract contains everything it should. Check out this article by the Better Business Bureau to find out what details should be included.
Call the BBB
Hiring a contractor can be a daunting task. If you're prepared, however, the process can go smoothly from start to finish. If you have any questions or concerns along the way, don't hesitate to contact the Better Business Bureau of Kansas City at (816) 421-7800.