Homeowners Cautiouned as Dennis Cleanup Begins

July 11, 2005

As residents of the coastal United States brace for the arrival of the 2005 hurricane season, many homeowners are already thinking about the cleanup work that will be necessary afterward.

Unfortunately, the vulnerable time right after a major storm is fertile ground for unscrupulous contractors seeking to profit from the misfortune of others.

“Sadly, there’s no limit to what some folks will do to make a buck,” said Keith Hahn, chief operating officer of Handyman Connection, a leading national home improvement and remodeling contractor network. “But homeowners can avoid many scams just by being informed.”

What can homeowners do to protect themselves? According to Hahn, there are some simple guidelines homeowners can follow when hiring outside vendors to assist their storm cleanup efforts:

1. Insist that contractors provide written estimates on company
2. Ask contractors to provide written guarantees.
3. Find someone else if a contractor insists on cash payment.
4. Are the contractor’s licenses and registrations valid?
5. Did the contractor offer you a legitimate business card?
6. Ask for proof of third-party property and injury insurance.
7. Are the contractor and any related trades persons bonded?
8. Check to see if the contractor is registered with the Better Business Bureau.
9. Ask for proof of membership in local Home Builders Associations or Chambers of Commerce.
10. How long has the contractor been in business and can he/she provide references from previous customers?

While Hahn pointed out that taking these steps still might not completely protect your family from fraud, he stresses that prevention is the best policy and encourages homeowners to heed his advice any time an outside contractor is hired for work on or around the home.

“Asking a contractor the right types of questions will immediately let you know if that contractor is on the level, and a reputable tradesperson will never resent you for asking,” said Hahn. “It may end up costing you more than hiring someone off the street for a few simple repairs, but in the long run, homeowners will more than make up for the minimal cost in terms of safety and peace-of-mind, not to mention the quality of the work performed.”

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