Make sure you cover all your bases when you need to fix the part of your home that covers you.

How to avoid being scammed by home repair contractors

Summer can be a tough season for your home, and now that the hot days are behind us, it’s probably a could time to do a quick check-up on the overall health of your home. Strong winds and storms can cause all sorts of damage, and it’s best you get any structural damage fixed up before winter arrives.

Fortunately, with the proper policy in place, home and auto insurance provide cover for these expenses, minus the cost of the deductible. Professionals fix the problem areas, and everyone walks away happy. But in a number of instances, these so-called “professionals” are nothing of the sort and bilk homeowners out of hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. They’re called “storm chasers,” and as the National Insurance Crime Bureau points out, these scam artists pose as legitimate contractors, when in actuality they’re out to make a quick buck and take advantage of policyholders when they’re vulnerable.

“NICB warns that the thousands of homeowner damage claims and millions of dollars that are being paid out by their insurance companies have resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of contractors claiming to be ‘licensed’ and going door-to-door, without being invited, to solicit business,” the not-for-profit organization warned in a recent consumer alert. “All too frequently, victims will allow them to go up on their roofs to inspect for damage, without knowing if the company has a valid license or has proper business insurance.”

In some instances, contractors may have the proper credentials, but because they’re not insured, any injury that befalls them while attending to the fixes has to be paid by homeowners.

With this in mind, the NICB has a few tips to be mindful of should you be approached by a contractor or are looking to hire one after experiencing damage caused by hail:

Know who they are

First and foremost, you should make sure that the contractors are transparent, and willing to say who they are and how they can be reached should you need them or have a follow-up question. The internet is a great resource to use for substantiative purposes, including sites like the Better Business Bureau.

Ask to see credentials, including insurance

If contractors are legitimate, they will be able to establish it with hard proof. Don’t hesitate to ask for licensing and certification that proves they are who they claim to be. You should also make sure they have business insurance, which frees you from liability should they be injured.

Request an estimate

Depending on the extent of the hail damage done, costs will vary. Before you sign on the dotted line, ask for an itemized assessment of what the entire repair project will cost. If anything seems abnormally high or low, seek out a second opinion before making the commitment. You may want to talk with friends to see who they’ve used and were pleased with.

Get it in writing

All agreements should have a paper trail, detailing the work that’s to be performed and what the parties’ expectations are. NICB noted it’s important to ensure that whatever advanced payment you provide is held in trust until there’s proof that the work is being carried out, like roofing materials are brought to the jobsite.

Steer clear of unsolicited contractors

Though there may be some honest contractors who rap on homeowners’ front doors to see if they need any work done, this is not a practice that’s recommended by professionals within the contracting industry. In other words, as NICB puts it, “if you didn’t request it, reject it.”

Check out NICB’s website for additional recommendations so you can avoid getting scammed.