With the first spring storms and tornadoes of the season having shown their dangerous and destructive strength recently, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has warned homeowners and businesses to protect themselves from repair scam artists eager to make money after a natural disaster.
Madigan also offered her condolences to the families of the victims of the recent tornadoes in northern Illinois.
“First and foremost, our prayers go out to the families of the victims of this week’s storm, which tragically ended the lives of eight Illinoisans and left at least four counties in disastrous condition,” Madigan said. “As residents in those areas begin to regroup and deal with the losses, I urge consumers and businesses to be on the lookout for con artists who try to turn someone else’s disaster into their dollars by cheating people on repairs and reconstruction.”
Madigan urged consumers and business owners to do their homework before contracting to have damaged or destroyed property rebuilt and not to rush in to contractual agreements or make large down payments. Madigan said consumers should quickly alert both her office and local law enforcement if suspicious “storm chasers” begin soliciting business in the area.
Warning of the possibility of dramatic increases in the price of materials and supplies needed to rebuild, Madigan urged consumers to be on the watch for and alert her office to instances of price gouging.
Madigan’s Consumer Fraud Bureau offered the following tips to help protect individuals and companies from being duped by dishonest contractors:
* Be wary of door-to-door solicitors; many home repair con artists are transients who move quickly into a troubled area; ask for recommendations from people you know and trust; whenever possible, use established local contractors.
* Ask to see any required state or local permits or licenses. Remember that public insurance adjusters must be licensed by the Department of Insurance and roofers must be licensed by the Department of Professional Regulation.
* Shop around for the best deal; get written estimates from several contractors; don’t allow a salesperson to rush you into a deal.
* Get all terms of a contract in writing; obtain a copy of the signed contract and never make full payment until all work has been completed to your satisfaction.
* Be aware that you have the right to cancel within three business days if you sign a contract based on a salesman who comes to the home.
* Do not pay in cash.
Madigan reminded consumers that the Home Repair and Remodeling Act, signed into law in 2000, requires contractors to furnish customers with written contracts for any repair or remodeling work costing more than $1,000. A contract must be signed by both the customer and the contractor.
The law also requires contractors to carry at least minimum amounts of insurance for property damage, bodily injury and improper home repair. Contractors also must provide consumers with an informational pamphlet entitled “Home Repair: Know Your Consumer Rights.”
Additional information can be found online at www.illinoisattorneygeneral.gov.
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