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BBB offers tips for homeowners to avoid home repair scams

(Photo: Jonathan C Owens)

RONAOKE, Va. (WSET) -- The Better Business Bureau is urging those affected by Sunday's severe storms to use caution before hiring a contractor to fix damage.

They said the aftermath of such storms often attracts people looking to take advantage of those in need.

In some cases, they mentioned that storm chasers often solicit neighborhoods hit hard by severe storms offering to do immediate repair work.

The homeowner may pay for a small amount of work to be done, only to be told after the fact that more work was completed and they now owe very high amounts of money. Or, in other cases, the workers take the money, don’t do the work, and are never heard from again.

BBB has offered the following tips to keep homeowners safe from such scams:

  • Be wary of door-to-door workers who show up unsolicited offering to make repairs. This includes companies offering to remove fallen trees and branches.
  • Check with your insurance company about policy coverage and specific filing requirements and keep copies of receipts for emergency repairs for reimbursement later.
  • Take time to shop around for contractors and check to make sure any contractors you are considering hiring are properly licensed and have up-to-date workers compensation and liability insurance. Also make sure they are approved by your insurance company.
  • Get everything in writing. Require a written agreement from anyone you hire that outlines the work to be done, the materials to be used, and the price breakdown for both labor and materials. Review it carefully before signing.
  • Never pay the full amount of repairs in advance. Follow the rule of thirds. Pay one third up front, one third at the halfway mark and the final third at the completion of the project. Pay with a credit card if possible.
  • Check licensing. If the work you are considering is valued at $1,000 or more, a valid Virginia Contractor’s License is required. Licensed contractors are subject to laws designed to protect the consumer.
  • Some tree maintenance may not require a license. The VA Board of Contractors currently does not regulate minor tree services such as stump grinding and branch trimming. A license is required if the tree is being excavated from the property.
  • Start With Trust. Go to www.bbb.org to check the company’s BBB Business Review before doing business and find a BBB accredited business.

For more advice on fighting fraud, visit www.bbb.org or contact the BBB Serving Western VA at (540) 342-3455 or (800) 533-5501.

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