Don't get ripped off on storm damage repairs

Help Me Hank helps you avoid storm damage scams


DETROIT – In the wake of recent storms ripping through the Detroit area, Help Me Hank wants to help you avoid getting ripped off if you need to make repairs around your home. If your home is ever damaged by severe weather, you'll likely be a combination of heartbroken, stressed-out, and confused about what to do next.


Working with the Better Business Bureau, Help Me Hank has come up with a storm damage checklist that should help you avoid storm chaser scam artists and, hopefully, find a competent reliable contractor to put your home back in order. 


1) Beware anyone that comes to your door, unsolicited, offering to do storm repairs for a "great" price. Some of those contractors may be legitimate, but many are so-called "storm chasers" who offer substandard service or take your money and run. You can always ask them to leave a written estimate,check out the company, and hire them later. Do not grab the first offer from the first person who walks up to your door.


2) If you have homeowners' insurance, call your agent immediately. You may get some idea of what kind of damage is covered and you can find out what documentation you will need to file a claim. You will likely need photos, receipts, and other documentation. Start saving those right away.


3) If you don't have a contractor you've used in the past, ask friends, relatives and neighbors for recommendations. Check with sources like the Better Business Bureau or Angie's List to see which businesses have good reputations.


4) Make sure you get at least three estimates so you can compare services and prices quoted. Once you see a few quotes, you will be able to spot any contractor that might be charging too much, or someone whose charging too little, which could also be a troubling sign.


5) Make sure the contractors meet the state licensing, registration, bonding and insurance requirements. You'll want someone who’s in compliance in case something goes wrong with the job. 


6) Always get a written contract for the work you’re having done. The scope of the work, or the exact details of what you want done, might change once the project is underway, but the contract can be amended to reflect those adjustments.


7) Pay only a minimum amount upfront, usually 20-30%. NEVER pay the full cost until all the work is complete. Understand that it’s not uncommon for contractors to need some money at the start for supplies and to begin the work. However, keep your payments proportional to the work that’s been done.


8) Watch out for signs of trouble, such as subcontractors (e.g., electricians, plumbers, wallboard installers) or suppliers complaining to you that the contractors haven’t paid them or the contractors failing to secure the necessary local work permits.  This can be a sign of future problems in completing your work on time and within budget. 

Auto repair advice

When streets are flooded, your car or truck can also be caught in the rising waters. The Better Business Bureau has another list of suggestions to deal with that automotive disaster.


1) Check your warranty. If you have a problem with your vehicle while it is still under warranty, follow the manufacturer's instructions, which may require that repairs be made at an authorized dealership.


2) Ask around. If you are looking for a qualified, independent shop, ask friends for recommendations, or request a list of BBB Accredited Businesses that do the type of auto repair you need. Be sure to check with BBB about the shop's reliability at www.bbb.org/search. Look for shops that display certification. For major work, such as brakes, transmission or engine repair, you will need to find a shop employing a specialist.


3) Ask all the questions that you need. Don't be embarrassed to request explanations. Don't rush the technician into making an on-the-spot diagnosis of the problem. Ask to be called and keep apprised of the problem, course of action, and cost of work before any work begins.


4) Before authorizing repairs, get a written estimate for parts and labor. Tell the shop to get your permission before making additional repairs. Ensure you receive notification by having the service manager write a request on the bottom of the repair order. Give phone numbers where you can be reached and, before you leave, be sure to understand all shop policies regarding labor rates, guarantees, and acceptable methods of payment.


5) Get everything in writing. When you pick up your vehicle, get an explanation of all work completed and get all guarantees in writing. Ask that any major new parts that have been installed be pointed out to you. Your repair bill should be itemized so, if a problem occurs later, you can prove the item is covered by the guarantee.




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