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‘Storm chasers’ can complicate weather damage, BBB warns

The Better Business Bureau warns homeowners to watch for 'storm chasers' after severe weather. (RECORD PHOTO/GREGG PARKER
The Better Business Bureau warns homeowners to watch for ‘storm chasers’ after severe weather. (RECORD PHOTO/GREGG PARKER

MADISON COUNTY – Spring officially starts March 20, but severe weather already has hit North Alabama. The Better Business Bureau warns that fraudulent ‘storm chasers’ can add further chaos.

Fly-by-night, door-to-door con artists may follow destructive storms and tornadoes and promote deals that may result in thousands of dollars in expenses and create serious headaches.

“Your BBB recommends doing your research to avoid getting taken advantage of by untrustworthy home contractors and the like,” BBB of North Alabama President Michele Mason said.

In addition, residents should verify the charities that collect donations for storm relief.

“Not only do Americans need to be concerned about avoiding fraud, they need to know charity relief efforts are legitimate and honorable,” BBB vice president Belinda McCormick said. “It’s imperative to find charities you can trust.”

BBB recommends several safeguards. Consumers should check out a company’s BBB rating and complaint history at bbb.org. “It’s fast, easy and free,” Mason said.

Homeowners should get at least three written bids. “The lowest bid isn’t necessarily the best bid,” Mason said.

Also, a company should hold appropriate licenses. For jobs less than $10,000, contractors must hold city or county licenses. For jobs valued at $10,000 or more, businesses must be licensed by the Alabama Home Builders Licensure Board. Call 800-304-0853 or visit hblb.state.al.us.

For consumer protection, companies should have general liability and workers compensation insurance. “Ask for references from their previous three jobs and check them out before you sign a contract,” Mason said.

Written contracts should state start and completion dates, exact costs, specific repairs, quality of materials and warranty information.

“Up-front deposit should not be more than 10 percent of the total job cost or $1,000 and final payment should only be due when the job is completed,” Mason said. “Don’t sign over an entire insurance check to a contractor.” Also, confirm that the company is bonded to protect against theft or damage and pulls appropriate permits.

For more information, call 256-533-1640 or 800-239-1642 or visit northalabama.bbb.

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