Farmowners Insurance Policyholders – Be Wary of Repair Scams and Con-artists
A property loss suffered from fire, lightning, wind storm, and flood damage brings out the scammers and fraudsters. They are especially active following any catastrophe that inflicts widespread damage. These con-artists prey on vulnerable people who are in desperate need.
No matter what the circumstances, it is important to hire qualified, reputable contractors. Avoid being victimized by following these 10 basic rules to use when selecting a contractor to work on your property.
1. Be wary of contractors who solicit door-to-door or via cold calls. Avoid those who quote a price that will automatically go up the next day if you don’t accept it immediately.
2. Obtain recommendations from family friends and neighbors who have had reputable contractors perform excellent work for them.
3. Ask for a written estimate that includes any oral agreements the contractor makes during this process. The estimate should contain a line-by-line breakdown of costs, including labor and materials. Ask if there is a charge for the estimate. If there is, avoid doing business with this contractor.
4. Obtain at least three estimates along with names and phone numbers of former customers of the contractor. Contact these customers and ask about the work performed.
5. Do not automatically select the lowest bidder. Their work may be lacking in quality.
6. Verify that the contractor is licensed, bonded and properly insured. Ask for certificates of insurance for workers’ compensation and general liability policies.
7. Contact the Better Business Bureau to see if complaints have been filed against the contractor.
8. Avoid dealing with a contractor who asks for the entire payment before the work begins. Never pay in full. The standard practice is to pay 33% of the job upfront.
9. Get a copy of the proposed contract. Ideally, it should include a hold-harmless clause in your favor. The contract also should explicitly specify the work to be performed; the start and end dates; payment agreements and warranty information.
10. Ask a knowledgeable friend, relative or attorney to review the home-repair contract with you before you sign.
Don’t let a fly-by-night contractor inflict more damage than you have already endured by promising work that may be shoddy, not up to code or not performed at all! If you think you have been solicited or ripped off by a scammer, call the police. You can also file a report with the National Insurance Crime Bureau at 1-800-835-6422.
Be sure to notify your farmowners insurance agent and/or carrier as soon as possible if you have a claim; document the damage and take photos and/or videos of everything. And don’t neglect to have before and after disaster plans!