Hiring the wrong contractor can add insult to injury after a homeowner encounters storm damage.
The Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota has received about 500 complaints each year for the last several years related to problems that consumers have with contractors. About 80% of those complaints are estimated to be for contractors doing storm-related repairs, according to Bess Ellenson, communications director at the Minnesota BBB.
Consumer organizations such as BBB and Checkbook.org offered suggestions for those affected by weather-related damages.
Homeowners with storm damage have likely contacted their insurance company by now, but an agent may also help by recommending contractors. Twin Cities Consumers’ Checkbook, a nonprofit, provides ratings on more than 500 contractors. Its articles about hiring a contractor and ratings of local contractors can be accessed free through July 7 at https://www.checkbook.org/startribune/alert. Angieslist.com also rates contractors, but its ratings should be carefully screened. It gives preference in website placement and referrals to businesses that have paid money. Consumer Federation of America, a nonprofit, recommends considering companies with 25 or more ratings from Angie’s List.
Consumers should obtain several bids if time permits, but each contractor should be vetted. Check with the BBB for ratings and complaints at www.thefirstbbb.org. Also check for any enforcement action taken on complaints at the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry (651-284-5005) and do an internet search of the company such as “[ company name] complaints” or “[company name] lawsuits against.”
While the process of researching companies and getting bids is time consuming, the BBB recommends resisting high-pressure sales tactics from “storm chasers” doing sales calls or door to door pitches.
Choosing a contractor that lets you pay with a credit card instead of by check will give you more power to withhold payment in the event of a problem. Don’t sign any documents that gives the contractor rights to your insurance claims, the BBB said.
Ask for several references from the contractor, preferably from people with a similar project. Call the Minnesota Department of Labor (651-284-5005) to see if a business has proper licensing. Find out if the contractor will be using subcontractors. If so, the same questions about their business apply.