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How to avoid repair rip off after storm damage | Eyewitness Wants to Know

Once severe weather moves out, schemers often move in to take advantage of the aftermath. Make sure you get the right repairs.

SAN ANTONIO — Look out for contractors who are trying to take advantage of storm damage. Many of them go door-to-door unsolicited. They are called storm chasers because they come in after severe weather.

Here are some tips to make sure you are not ripped off on repairs:

The first step should always be to call your insurance company. Agents can give you an idea of what repairs cost, and give you some preferred contractors to contact.

Get written estimates and get at least three. Watch out for pricing that is too good to be true.

Make sure you read and understand any contracts before you sign.

“The biggest word is communication on both sides,” said Jason Meza of the Better Business Bureau (BBB). “Communicate what's in a contract before you start with. The scope like when the starting end date is and price. Every time there's an addition or some kind of price change, it needs to be communicated. This saves a lot of headaches.” 

Find out where the company is based. You will want to use local contractors so they are easier to contact if there are problems.

“You’re going to look for phone number, website and address. Is the address real?” said Rich Johnson of the Insurance Council of Texas. “Is the phone number real? Are they licensed in the State of Texas? All of those things are clues that you’re going to look for. It’s important to get local contractors because you’ll be able to follow up with them later. If it’s somebody from out of state, who knows if you’re going to be able to get in touch with them again.”

Do not pay in full upfront. Use the rule of thirds instead.

“If you're going to offer deposit pay with a secure method, give a third upfront,” Meza said. “Usually the second, third will come when they show up with materials in hand and the third payment, third portion of that will show at the end of the contract project completion.”

Double check the company’s licensing and reputation. The BBB is always a good resource.

“Research the company before. Find their presence and profile at BBB.org,” said Meza. “If you don't see something, that might be an indication that's probably a bad path to go down. If you do see a business listed on our website, more than likely you'll see feedback from the business like comments, complaints, reviews -- some things you can use to before you book in advance.”

Take a picture of the vehicle and license of the contractor if you do decided to use a contractor that comes to your door. It can help you track the business down in the future.

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