Houston Homeowners Warned Against Repair Scams
9/7/20178 Ways Houstonians can avoid contractor cons, insurance fraud
WASHINGTON, Sept. 7, 2017 — Houston homeowners should stay alert for storm-chasing contractors who dangle fast, cheap and fraudulent repairs that could cost thousands of dollars out of pocket, the nonprofit Coalition Against Insurance Fraud warns.
“Harvey’s vast home damage may outrace the ability of trustworthy contractors to quickly respond with urgently needed repairs. Con artists will try to exploit the confusion with bogus repair deals,” Coalition executive director Dennis Jay says.
Harvey destroyed up to 40,000 homes. Yet labor and subcontractor shortages are widespread, the National Association of Homebuilders says.
Most home contractors are honest. Crooked storm chasers, however, typically troll neighborhoods after natural disasters. Many are unlicensed, and often go door to door. Storm chasers may offer low prices and promise speedy repairs that are setups for scams.
Repairs may be shoddy, using substandard materials. Contractors may demand a large downpayment, then disappear without finishing the work.
Fixing up fraudulent or botched repairs can cost homeowners thousands of extra dollars out of pocket. Storm chasers also may inflate insurance claims, jeopardizing potentially covered repair payouts.
Houston consumers can protect themselves:
Avoid door-to-door pitches. Avoid contractors who go door to door. Many are dishonest and unlicensed, trying to export desperate homeowners for profit.
Get written bids. Obtain several written repair bids. Avoid signing the first contract offer, especially if it seems unusually low.
Have a signed contract. Start work only with a signed repair contract. It should detail cost, promised work, material and schedule.
Avoid pressure tactics. Avoid signing up if the contractor pressures you for a fast decision for a “special discount” or “one-time offer.”
Work with insurer. Coordinate covered repairs with your insurer. Have an adjuster inspect the damage first.
Contractor licensed? Check for required licenses, plus proof of workers compensation and liability coverage.
Paying deductible. Be wary if the contractor offers to pay your deductible. It could be a lure for a repair scam.
Fair downpayment. A reasonable downpayment is about 30 percent. Never pay in cash. Write checks to the contractor’s company instead of the contractor personally.
Report scams. Call the consumer helpline of the Texas Insurance Department at 1-800-252-3439, and discover other helpful Harvey resources.
“Staying alert to repair scams can help rebuilding go faster and make sure repairs are done right,” Jay says.
James Quiggle, director of communications