Wildfires throughout Colorado this summer are leaving homeowners in those areas with no choice but to restore or rebuild. And while natural disasters often bring out the best in people, they also attract unscrupulous or incompetent contractors out to make a fast buck.
“Disasters, especially those of the magnitude of Colorado’s wildfires this summer, will attract contractors from across the nation ready to lend a hand. Many will be honest and trustworthy, and others will be interested only in doing as many jobs as they can as fast as they can to make a hefty profit,” said Shelley Glause, investigations and outreach coordinator for the Better Business Bureau serving Northern Colorado and Wyoming.
Glause said the only way to ensure you’re working with a reputable contractor is to check them out first. That includes checking their BBB Business Reviews at wynco.bbb.org, checking to see if they have proper licenses and insurance, and checking out references.
As overwhelming as the process might seem, the BBB encourages homeowners to follow these simple tips to ensure their homes are restored, repaired or rebuilt the right way:
• Don’t sign anything you don’t understand. Ask a friend, a relative, business person or an attorney to review any contract you do not understand.
• For restoration projects, hire only local contractors qualified in mold remediation and property restoration.
• Be suspicious of any contractor who contacts you out of the blue or is going door to door to offer his services.
• Act promptly. Every insurance contract requires the policyholder to mitigate damages. Some examples include cutting off the water, moving contents (things inside your house) to a safe place and tarping the roof (but only if it can be safely done).
• Do not be surprised if the insurance check is issued to both you and the lender that holds your mortgage. Your contractor may require you to sign a statement acknowledging that the lien on the mortgage attaches to the insurance check. This is a common practice since Hurricane Katrina and helps ensure that the insurance check is used to restore the property.
• Keep a copy of all contracts you sign and any warranty papers your contractor might give you.
• Don’t be in a hurry. It may take a while for local contractors to get around to you and you may be frustrated. That is understandable. But the scammer understands this too and will attempt to manipulate these feelings of frustration to your detriment. Don’t be pressured into making a decision that might come back to haunt you later.
• Ask the contractor if he/she will be doing the work or if subcontractors will do repairs or reconstruction. If the latter, ask where the subs are from and how much oversight they are given.
• Be highly suspicious of any contractor who asks you to pay for the entire job upfront. You may never see him – or your money! - again! For certain jobs it might be OK to pay a deposit. Check with a trusted friend, relative or your insurance agent to see if payment of a deposit is customary for your particular job.
• Some contracts contain a clause where substantial cancellation fees, sometimes called liquidated damages, are required if the homeowner decides not to use the contractor after the cancellation period referred to in the contract.
Additional information and tips regarding the Colorado wildfires can be found at http://wynco.bbb.org/fire-resources/. And additional information on mitigating mold and mildew that might result from fire-fighting efforts can be found on the Environmental Protection Agency’s website at epa.gov/mold/moldguide.html.
Start With Trust. For trustworthy consumer tips and information, visit wynco.bbb.org or call 970-484-1348 or 800-564-0371.
About the Better Business Bureau
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