Life after Hurricane Harvey means continuing to rebuild and recover from the storm and flooding. Unfortunately, that also means scammers could become more prevalent, preying on individuals who are stressed and overwhelmed. Be careful of contractors coming from other areas or new companies starting to profit from individuals’ loss.
There are several resources to help in identifying trustworthy companies. Better Business Bureau Serving Southeast Texas can offer business reviews and information for companies locally and nation-wide. Other organizations such as your insurance company and industry affiliations can give you an idea of how well established a company is.
Better Business Bureau and Houselogic.com identifies some common construction scams:
- "I’ll need the money up front” – while some contractors may require some form of down payment, depending on how much work needs to be done, asking for the full payment upfront is not common. Some states even have legal maximums that can be charged as a down payment. Even if a contractor is not asking for the full amount, never prepare more than $1000 or 10% of the job cost.
- "Take my word for it” – a lot of people hire contracts to get their expertise and suggestions. Those ideas may be useful but be cautious when they suggest their own "extra touches and upgrades.” Make sure everything you have agreed on have been written into the contract. Make updates before signing with the contractor. You don’t want to get into cost battles later on if the contract says a feature was not included in the original price.
- "I don’t need to pull a permit” – depending on how significant the project it, you may be legally required to have a building permit. This allows officials to confirm safety codes for the work. If it is a small job, a contractor may try to get around the rules or they may ask you to apply for a homeowner’s permit. This could result in misleading authorities and putting the responsibility on you as the homeowner. Always insist on the contractor pulling a building permit. This helps you identify the unlicensed contractors and further protects you.
- "We ran into unforeseen problems” – sometimes everything starts well and the project is moving along as agreed. Then they say they have run into structural problems and the price jumps considerably. In some cases, additional costs are legitimate and necessary. But if you are ever unsure about the supposed changes, get a second opinion. Depending on the issues being described, you may be able to get a home inspector to give you their opinion. If the issue is regarding insect damage, you may be able to get a second opinion from a licenses pest control company. While looking for contractors, make sure there is a policy for change orders within the contract.
- "I’ve got extra materials I can sell you cheap” – some materials cannot be returned to the suppliers and this means companies may offer what seems to be a great deal. This tactic is often time sensitive, making you think you have to agree to the deal on the spot.
Always take your time to check contractors’ licenses and references, no matter how good a deal they are presenting. Be safe and best wishes as our community continues to recover.
One Team. One Vision. One Goal. – Everyone Goes Home Safe!