Editorial: No quick fixes

Be cautious when hiring someone to fix storm-related damage
Feb. 04, 2013 @ 11:42 PM

A number of structures and properties in Sevier County were damaged during recent flooding and heavy rains. In fact there was widespread damage across the state, although fortunately Sevier County was spared a significant amount of disruption.

If you did have some storm-related problems to home, business or property, then Attorney General Bob Cooper and officials with the Tennessee Division of Consumer Affairs have a message for you: Use caution while trying to repair roofs, remove trees and make repairs to guard against those who don’t have your interests at heart.

“The past few weeks have been very trying for many people, but the need to stay vigilant is important in your search to get immediate help,” Cooper said. “Most Tennesseans are always quick to help their neighbors in times of trouble, but it is important to help provide storm victims with the best information and preventative measures they can get to avoid being victimized again.”

Problems that sometimes arise after a weather problem include price gouging as well as fraud in the areas of home repair and debris removal.

“Potential bad actors often use times of disaster as a golden opportunity to make a quick profit, “ said Gary Cordell, director of Tennessee’s Division of Consumer Affairs, part of the Department of Commerce and Insurance. “Anyone is a potential target of disaster-recovery home improvement scams. Don’t let it happen to you.”

Cordell offer this sound advice: Take the time to verify with the department’s Board for Licensing Contractors before signing any contracts. The license database, found at http://verify.tn.gov, provides free information for dozens of professions – including home improvement contractors. Cordell says homeowners should also seek contractors’ references, ask for copies of general liability and workers’ compensation insurance policies and get proposals and contracts in writing including the specifics of the work that will be done, the materials to be used and the completion date. The Board for Licensing Contractors also has a page of tips for consumers at http://1.usa.gov/GYSKNP.

Other tips:

- Avoid high-pressure sales tactics to act quickly before signing a contact.

- Do not give anyone money upfront before the job is finished.

- Ask a lot of questions and get references before agreeing from people you trust before hiring someone to do work for you.

- Take photos of your damage right away and during the course of the repair work and completion photos. You should also take photos of any repairs you believe were not done correctly.

Be wary, be suspicious and take precautions. Don’t let unscrupulous opportunists take advantage of you.