Our Opinion: The scams after the storms

Just as homebuyers are advised to consider “location, location, location,” homeowners are encouraged to select contractors based on “reputation, reputation, reputation.”

Exercise caution before accepting the services of an out-of-town contractor who comes to your door with what appears to be an incredible offer, recommends Brenda Procter, a family financial education specialist with the University of Missouri Extension.

Although some visiting contractors are honest entrepreneurs who perform quality work, Procter says, swindlers and quick-buck artists abound, particularly in the aftermath of damage caused by storms, flooding or other natural disasters.

Procter urges consumers to heed the warning signs and reject contractors who:

• Quote prices that are “too good to be true.” She warns the contractor might make up for a low bid by skimping on quality or materials.

• Offer a “special” deal that’s good “today only” or use other high-pressure sales tactics.

• Want payment in cash.

Before signing with a contractor you don’t know or haven’t selected based on trusted recommendations, Procter advises:

• Check with the Better Business Bureau, either in Missouri or the city and state where the contractor is based.

• Ask for proof of insurance.

• Don’t pay in advance.

• Don’t allow any work to begin until both you and the contractor have signed a contract.

Procter recommends written contracts specify what is included in the price, necessary permits, guarantees for materials and work, duration of work, inspections and procedures for desired or required changes.

Finally, she advises homeowners who encounter problems that cannot be resolved to contact the Missouri Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 800-392-8222.

Home repairs — especially in response to a natural disaster — are a source of inconvenience, even in the best of circumstances.

Following these sensible recommendations can spare homeowners from added frustration and victimization.

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