As New Jerseyans begin to pick up the pieces and rebuild following the devastation caused by Superstorm Sandy, it is important to remain vigilant and cautious despite the fervent desire to repair property and return to normalcy. Indeed, while the majority of contractors are hard-working and well-intentioned, hot-on-the-heels of many storms come some scam artists who prey upon victims of natural disasters such as Sandy.
AARP New Jersey wants to remind consumers of these all-too-common contractor scams, and is also providing some tips to help them be smarter, and more cautious, when hiring someone to help them rebuild.
First, check with your insurance company to see what your policy covers. Save all receipts, including those for food, hotel or other expenses that may be covered under your policy. Then, consider these tips before hiring a contractor in the days and weeks ahead:
• Before doing any major repair, get at least three estimates.
• Make sure the contractor is licensed and insured to do business in your area.
• Never hire a contractor on the spot. Check out repair companies by looking for consumer reviews on the BBB website and on social media sites such as Yelp or Angie’s list.
• Avoid the paperless contractor. Reject anyone who has no business card or company fliers (or who lists a P.O. Box instead of a street address).
• Get a written contract, specifying what work will be done, the materials that will be used and the price breakdown for labor and materials. Any promises made verbally should be written into the contract, including warranties.
• Never pay in advance — or in cash. While some companies may ask for a deposit, consumer advocates suggest paying no more than one-third of the job in advance.
[Photo courtesy of Old Shoe Woman/Flickr]