BEAUMONT, Texas — Thousands across Southeast Texas are now in the process of hiring contractors after Tropical Storm Imelda.
It's stressful enough dealing with property damage and insurance companies, the last thing you need is the headache of getting ripped off.
Hundreds of so-called 'contractors' head to storm zones offering their help. The BBB and other consumer watchdogs warn not to necessarily do business with the first contractor you hear of.
Here are some tips to consider before signing on the dotted line:
TIP 1: Get at least three bids from three different contractors to see the differences in price. Remember, the cheapest isn't always the best.
TIP 2: Resist high-pressure sales from storm chasers using tactics such as the "good deal" you'll get only if you hire them on the spot. The BBB suggests being proactive in selecting a contractor and not reactive to sales calls on the phone or door-to-door pitches. The BBB says, "disaster victims should never feel forced to make a hasty decision or to choose an unknown contractor."
TIP 3: Be sure the person you hire is licensed and insured. Even if they are referred by someone, Google them and cross check with the BBB to see if they have done business under a different name. If they have, it might be a red flag. That Google search might also turn up a criminal record. That's not necessarily a disqualifier, but it's at least good to know.
TIP 4: If you are going to use an app-based service to refer someone to you, don't assume they have been checked out. There have been unlicensed, uninsured and felon contractors being hired unknowingly. And don't just take their word they are insured, see the paperwork yourself. Make sure they are covered in case they get hurt or mess something up.
TIP 5: Don't sign over insurance checks to contractors. Get an invoice from the contractor and pay them directly (preferably with a credit card that offers fraud protection), and don't sign any documents that give the contractor any rights to your insurance claims.