Most contractors and tree removal companies in North Carolina are good business people, and many local merchants pitch in to help their community recover from a disaster. However, some scammers travel to areas that have been hit by storms and other disasters to take advantage of consumers. Follow these tips to avoid trouble with home repair after a disaster:
- Be Safe. Do not attempt to move downed power lines. Call your utility company immediately for assistance.
- Contact your insurance company. Some insurance companies require an adjuster’s approval before work can be done. Take pictures and videos, if possible, of the damage. Cover holes in your roof or walls with a tarp if you can do so safely to prevent additional damage.
- Do not pay for work up front. Inspect the work and make sure you are satisfied before you pay. A reasonable down payment may be required for some projects, but don’t pay anything without getting a written contract. Avoid paying with cash; use a check or a credit card instead.
- Beware of any contractor who tries to rush you or who comes to your home offering assistance. If an offer is only good “now or never,” find someone else to do the work. Avoid contractors, including roofers, who go door-to-door offering services. Instead, get recommendations from friends, neighbors, co-workers and others who have had work performed on their homes recently.
- Get three written estimates for the work, if possible, and compare bids. Check credentials and contact the Attorney General’s Office and the Better Business Bureau to learn about any complaints against the contractor. Ask to get the contractor’s certificate of insurance directly from their insurance company, not from the contractor. Before work begins make sure you get a written contract that lists all the work to be performed, its costs and a completion date. Read the contract and make sure it includes any verbal promises you may have received from the contractor. Services like cleaning or storage of your belongings often come with extra charges, which can really add up depending on the length of storage.
- Watch out for price gouging. Under North Carolina law, businesses cannot charge too much for goods or services when a disaster, an emergency or an abnormal market disruption for critical services has been declared or proclaimed by the Governor. Under the law, the Attorney General’s Office can put a stop to price gouging and seek refunds for consumers who paid too much. The courts may also impose civil penalties against price gougers of up to $5,000 for each violation.
We Can Help If you have a complaint about disaster repair or price gouging or need to check out a contractor, contact us for help or call toll free within North Carolina at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM.