After extreme weather and natural disasters like hail storms, you might need to quickly hire someone to help get things back to normal. But don’t hire the first person who says they’ll help. Unlicensed contractors and scammers often show up after natural disasters and promise quick repairs, clean-up, and debris removal. But if you hire them, they take your money and then don’t do the work, promise you a discount but charge outrageous prices, or lack the skills to do the job.
Before Anyone Starts Work
- Contact your insurance company. Ask about the next steps in assessing any damage to your home or business. If a contractor tells you work is covered by your insurance, call your agent to make sure.
- Research a contractor’s reputation and work online. Use online ratings sites you trust to see what others are saying. Also, check out a contractor’s reputation by searching online for the company’s name with words like “scam,” “review,” or “complaint.”
- Get an estimate. You may need more than one estimate, if your insurance agent/company requires it. The written estimate should include a description of the work to be done, materials (quality level of shingles), completion date, the price, and the contractor’s contact information. You can reach out to the City of Newton's Building Official to have them review proposals or answer questions you may have by calling 641-792-6622 and asking for the Building Official
- Make sure the contractor follows all adopted building codes. The City of Newton does not require a permit for roof or siding repairs but the City has adopted building codes that must be followed. View the full list of Building Code Editions Adopted by the City of Newton on our website.
- Look for signs of a scam. Don’t do business with contractors who encourage you to spend a lot of money on temporary repairs, offer “special deals” in exchange for your credit card number, a cash advance, or promise you a loan in exchange for a fee in advance.
- Read any contract carefully. Make sure a contract includes the following:
- the contractor’s name, address, phone, and license number (if required)
- an estimated start and completion date
- a copy of the contractor’s insurance
- any promises made during conversations or calls
- a written statement of your right to cancel the contract within three business days if you signed it in your home or at a location other than the seller’s permanent place of business
- also make sure all blank spaces are filled in
Paying for Clean-up and Repairs
- Check or credit card: Negotiate a reasonable down payment by check or credit card. Never pay in cash, and never pay the full cost of repairs upfront. Be cautious of any contractor that requires any upfront payment. Never make the final payment until the work is done and you’re satisfied with it.
- Insurance: Never sign your insurance check or claim over to a contractor. Instead, talk with your insurance company for their best practices in arranging payment or reach out to your bank or credit union.
How To Handle Problems
- Report problems. First, try to resolve disputes with the contractor. Many can be resolved at this level. Follow any phone conversations with a letter you send by certified mail. Request a return receipt. That’s your proof that the company got your letter. Keep a copy for your files. If that fails, consider getting outside help like the
- Report fraud, waste, or abuse involving FEMA disaster assistance programs. Contact the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General’s Office at 1-800-323-8603.
- Report scams. If you think you see a scam, report it to the Federal Trade Commission at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Your report could help the FTC stop the scammers and help someone else avoid that scam.
For more tips, visit the Iowa Legal Aid Avoiding and view their Avoiding Rip-offs information.
Sources: FTC.gov & Iowa Legal Aid