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BBB: Beware fly-by-night storm-chasing contractors

  • Special to The Eagle
  • Published Saturday, March 16, 2013, at 8:09 a.m.
  • Updated Saturday, March 16, 2013, at 8:11 a.m.

Here we go again with another Kansas storm season. As surely as night follows day, storm-chasing contractors can rain down on your neighborhood. Storm chasing is a multimillion-dollar industry. They use computerized hail forecasting to predict which areas might be damaged and be easy pickings for their sometimes shoddy services. Using teams of out-of-state installers and trained salespeople, they often go door-to-door through storm-ravaged neighborhoods looking for quick work.

If you have the misfortune to find your home damaged by hail, tornadoes or straight-line winds, consider these tips from the Better Business Bureau when choosing a contractor:

• Be sure the contractor is properly licensed and has liability and workers’ compensation insurance. Laws can vary regarding whether door-to-door permits are required.

• Never pay in advance and be suspicious of anyone who asks you to.

• Never have your insurance company make the check out to the contractor.

• Get three to four estimates if possible.

• Watch out for the solicitor who claims to have materials left over from another nearby job. Ask about the location of their business and don’t accept vague answers.

• Watch as the workers inspect your roof. Unscrupulous storm chasers have been known to create damage in order to get the job.

• See if there is a sign for their business on their vehicles. Check for out-of-state tags. Ask about the warranty, especially if they are from outside Kansas. What if problems arise after they have left your area?

• Ask for and check references where the contractor has done work within the past six months.

• Resist high-pressure sales tactics.

• Check out the contractor with the BBB by going to http://kansasplains.bbb.org/.

• Always require a written contract. Read and understand it in its entirety. Do not sign a blank contract.

A proposal that is clearly written and broken down into separate line items is a good sign that the contractor is thorough and trying to be as accurate as possible. Your estimate or proposal should include the type of roof covering, manufacturer and color; all materials needed such as underlayment and ice dam protection membrane; exact work to be done such as removal or replacement of existing roof, flashing work and ventilation work.

The contract also should state specifics about repairing any exterior landscaping or interior finishing that is damaged by the contractor; the method of installation; approximate date of start and completion; payment procedure and length of warranty and what is covered. If you want the contractor to haul away the old roofing material and project waste, make sure that is stated in the contract.

As always, if the price seems too good to be true, it probably is. Uninsured or substandard work by fly-by-night contractors can prolong your misfortune long after the storm is gone. Try to make unhurried, deliberate decisions about who repairs your home.

Contact the Better Business Bureau with concerns by calling 800-856-2417 or visit the website at www.kansasplains.bbb.org.

Denise Groene is the state director of the Better Business Bureau.

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