How to Avoid Home Restoration Scams After a Natural Disaster
Natural disasters can create opportunities for unscrupulous people who seek to profit off the misfortunes of others. Here’s how you can protect yourself from home restoration scams.
Watch for Red Flags
Natural disasters can bring out the very best in people. It’s not uncommon to see neighbors and strangers respond to a disaster by rolling up their sleeves and opening their wallets to help victims recover. Unfortunately, disasters can also create a perfect opportunity for scammers who use the opportunity to make a quick buck. Sadly, the restoration industry is not immune to scams. There are plenty of unscrupulous providers who are all too happy to take your money and run after providing shoddy work or, what’s worse, no work at all.
While restoration scammers can approach homeowners with unique tactics; most share some common traits that make them easy to identify. These include:
- They use high-pressure tactics that often include limited-time offers.
- They demand that consumers sign documents immediately to acquire a now-or-never deal.
- They ask for up-front cash for the entire amount of the job.
- They won’t provide a written estimate for the restoration project.
- They can’t or refuse to provide local references.
- They ask the homeowner to obtain the building permit.
These red flags are typically a sure sign that you are dealing with a disreputable home restoration contractor. Fortunately, you can protect yourself by asking a few targeted questions.
Questions You Should Ask
Anytime you are hiring someone to repair your home, you should take the time to properly vet the company. Before agreeing to anything, be sure to:
- Ask the service provider to show evidence that they are licensed in your state.
- Ask for references and follow through by contacting each one.
- Make sure the company can provide a written estimate with detailed job specifications on the labor, materials, timeline and total charges for the work.
- Obtain a written contract that clearly states exactly what will be done, material quality, warranties, the total cost of the job and start and completion dates.
- Do not sign a contract that has any blank spaces, and make sure you understand your cancellation rights
- Protect yourself by demanding that the contractor, subcontractor and any suppliers complete and sign a "waiver of lien" form. This will help protect you if the contractor or company doesn't pay its bills and a subcontractor or material supplier decides to place a lien on your home. Unfortunately, this can happen even if you paid the primary service provider in full.
- Be sure your service provider is fully insured and also carries worker's compensation, personal liability and property damage coverage. Always ask for copies of insurance certificates. If the provider is not properly insured, you could be held liable for damages or injuries that occur during the project.
- Always check with your home insurance provider to determine the extent of your coverage.
- Avoid paying for the project with cash. Instead, pay by credit card or check and always get a receipt.
- Maintain thorough records, including copies of the contract, as well as any correspondence and change orders.
While it may seem like a headache, doing your due diligence will help ensure that you are getting quality work from a reputable restoration company. By asking some direct questions and following up with some light research, you can identify less reputable service providers before you open your wallet.
Go with a Recognizable Name
To protect yourself from a disaster restoration scam, it’s a good idea to choose a national brand with a recognizable name. This will help ensure that you are working with a trustworthy provider with the ability to meet your needs and the agility to respond quickly to the scene.
With more than 1,700 Franchises in the U.S. and Canada, SERVPRO is a trusted name in the restoration industry. Whether you need immediate help with emergency flood damage or assistance with cleaning, you can depend on our experienced technicians.
SERVPRO of Denver East specializes in flawless water damage restoration. Empowered by extensive training, modern equipment and an experienced team of professionals, we can quickly restore your home to its original condition. Contact our team to learn more.