Beware paying workers up-front

Posted: November 01, 2012

HERE'S A WARNING about the fly-by-night con artists about to descend on your damaged neighborhood, offering cleanup/fix-up help.

These so-called storm-chaser contractors were a plague in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina, with more than 6,000 repair-related complaints filed with the Attorney General's Office.

Many victims had handed over cash up-front (a big no-no) to a "helpful" contractor who just happened to be working in the neighborhood - but would never be seen again. Other victims overpaid for roof replacements when a mere patch job would have sufficed.

Storm chasers also try to con you out of cash with the promise of quick tree service, window repair, plumbing, electrical fixes and flooring replacement.

Angle Hicks, founder of Angie's List, a leading provider of consumer reviews on local contractors and service companies, issued a tip list on Tuesday.

It includes advice that homeowners document any damage with pictures, call at least three reputable contractors and check their credentials (license, insurance, experience with similar jobs). Be forewarned: the best repair guys are usually busy. And you will have to fork over some moolah in advance for materials.

Another good point is to review your homeowner's insurance policy before putting in a claim. Water damage isn't always covered. And even when you're clearly not at fault, an insurer often socks a claimant with a premium penalty fee.


Contact Jonathan Takiff at takiffj@phillynews.com or 215-854-5960. Read his blog at philly.com/GizmoGuy.

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