AUSTIN, Texas – With many in the Dallas area still dealing with rising waters and hundreds in the Houston area beginning to start the clean-up and recovery process, the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI) urges everyone affected by recent weather events to be alert for scams and fraudulent activity by using caution when hiring a contractor for repairs.
“Typically after a storm like this we see scammers looking to take advantage of those who just want to get repairs done to their homes or property,” said Joe Woods, PCI’s vice president of state government relations. “If your home or property was recently damaged it’s important you contact your insurance company or agent right away, many companies offer simple dos and don’ts when hiring a contractor.”
While automobile insurance generally covers flood damage to a vehicle if you have comprehensive coverage, the standard homeowners insurance policy does not generally cover flooding. However, if your home was damaged by the recent rain and you don’t have flood insurance, you could still be covered depending on the terms of your policy. So it’s important to check with your agent immediately.
“We’ve also seen in past storms where public adjusters or attorneys target homeowners,” added Woods. “As with any contractor seeking business at this time, it is important to closely examine the service being sold to prevent being victimized by scams and fraudulent business practices. As an example, claims that a public adjuster can negotiate extraordinarily large settlements should be a warning sign. It is important to talk with your insurance company or agent before signing anything. Insurance companies are committed to fairly and promptly settling your claim and can assist you throughout the claims filing process.”
There are resources available to assist consumers if they experience price gouging, home repair scams or charitable giving fraud. If you suspect fraudulent activity be sure to contact the Texas Attorney General Office at https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/ or call at 1-800-252-8011. If you suspect someone is posing as a FEMA inspector, call FEMA’s Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721, or call your local law enforcement officials.
PCI urges homeowners to follow these Dos & Don’ts when hiring a contractor:
Be suspicious of any contractor who tries to rush you, especially on non-emergency or temporary repairs.
Shop around for a contractor by getting recommendations from friends and neighbors. Be wary of anyone knocking on your door offering unsolicited repairs to your home. FEMA does not endorse repair contractors.
Get three written estimates for the work and compare bids. Check credentials with the Better Business Bureau or state attorney general’s office to see if the firm has any outstanding complaints.
Always have a written, detailed contract that clearly states everything the contractor will do, including prices for labor and materials, clean-up procedures, and estimated start and finish dates.
Always inspect the work and make sure you are satisfied before you pay the contractor.
Never pay for work up front. Don’t hire a contractor that requires all payments before work is completed. Most contractors will require a reasonable down payment on work for materials etc., but don’t pay anything until you have a signed written contract.
Never sign a contract with blank spaces, which a crooked contractor can alter after they have obtained your signature.
Don’t believe a contractor who says he’s supported by the government. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) does not endorse individual contractors or loan companies; call FEMA toll-free at 1-800-621-FEMA for more information.
Avoid paying with cash; use a check or credit card instead. This creates a record of your payments to the contractor.For more information, please go to PCI’s Contractor’s Tips webpage