With the recent damage due to our storms, BBB® reminds consumers that with natural disasters like tornados, high winds can bring out the best in people, as strangers reach out to help others in need. Unfortunately, crises also bring out persons who choose to take advantage of the victims.
Some of the most common "after-disaster"scams involve damage done to trees and roof damage. Better Business Bureau offers the following tips to homeowners who suffer tree and/or roofing damage in the wake of a natural disaster:
- Check with BBB to get a list of Accredited Tree and/or Roofing Companies:
Tree Companies - http://www.bbb.org/tulsa/accredited-business-directory/tree-service
Roofing Companies - http://www.bbb.org/tulsa/accredited-business-directory/roofing-contractors
- Check with your insurance company about policy coverage and specific filing requirements.
- Although you may be anxious to get things back to normal, avoid letting your emotions get the better of you. Don't be pressured into making an immediate decision. Be wary of door-to-door solicitations and check to see if your community requires them to have solicitation permits.
- Take time to shop around and get 3-4 estimates. For large projects, ask the tree service how many projects like yours they have completed in the last year. Ask for several local references that are at least one year-old and follow through on checking them.
- Check to see whether the company in question is a member of any reputable trade association, such as the American Society of Consulting Arborists or International Society of Arboriculture.
- Ask if certified arborists, who have professional training and certifications, are on staff. An experienced arborist is particularly important on projects involving large trees or removal of substantial branches on established trees. Check for certification by the International Society of Arboriculture, or by a local certifying body such as a state arborist association.
- Make sure each company you are considering has current liability insurance and workers compensation insurance. All certificates of insurance should be sent from the insurance agency directly to you. Otherwise, it could be a fraudulent certificate.
- Make sure roofing contractors have a current registration with Oklahoma’s Construction Industry Board.
- Require a written contract agreement with anyone you hire. Be sure their name, address, license number – if applicable and phone number is included in contract. Read and understand the contract in its entirety, don’t sign a blank contract and a copy of the signed contract is to be given to you at time of signature. Do not assume that anything that is not listed is included in the contract if it is not specified.
- Once you have picked a company you feel comfortable with, never pay for a project of any kind until you are 100% satisfied with the work. Pay by check or credit card only when the job is complete. Paying by credit card provides some recourse should the job not be completed as stated in the contract.
- Ask how the job will be done and if they will perform the work according to industry standards.
Beware of a tree service that . . .
- Has no printed materials, letterhead, bid forms, etc.
- Is vague about his formal credentials as an arborist.
- Offers an unusually low price . . . at first.
- Only accepts cash payments, and/or asks for payment up front.
- Pressures you for an immediate decision.
- Offers you a discount to find other customers.
· If they mention“topping a tree,” “lion’s-tailing” or “using climbing spikes to prune a tree”the company does not follow industry standards. “Topping” is drastically cutting back the major limbs of a tree to reduce its size. “Lion’s tailing” is an extreme stripping out of most of the interior branches of a tree. Such practices can injure or kill your tree. Sometimes these techniques will be presented as a way to save money by removing more of the tree at one time. However a tree pruned by one of these methods usually requires more expensive restoration work in the future in order to save it.
Look for a roofing service that has . . .
Clearly written proposals that are detailed and broken down into separate line items are a good sign that the contractor is being thorough and has prepared an accurate estimate. The following is a partial list of items your estimate or proposal should include:
- The type of roof covering, manufacturer and color
- Materials to be included in the work, e.g., underlayment, ice dam protection membrane
- Scope of work to be done
- Removal or replacement of existing roof
- Flashing work, e.g., existing flashings to be replaced or re-used, adding new flashing, flashing metal type
- Ventilation work, e.g., adding new vents
- Who is responsible for repairing/replacing exterior landscape or interior finishes that are damaged during the course of the work? Make sure that it contains language addressing who is responsible for any damage that occurs as a result of the work. All items of concern and work to be done should be included in the contract.
- Installation method
- Approximate starting and completion dates
- Payment procedures
- Length of warranty and what is covered, e.g., workmanship, water leakage
- Who will haul away the old roofing materials and/or project waste (e.g. extra materials, packaging, etc.)? Is there extra charge for this service?
Storm chasing has become a multi-million dollar industry, complete with computerized hail forecasting, teams of out of state installers and trained salespeople who go door-to-door soliciting work.
If one estimate seems much lower than the others and it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Many fly-by-night contractors' below-cost bids seem attractive, but these contractors often are uninsured and perform substandard work or use substandard materials. Make sure to read the fine print. Some contracts use a clause where substantial cancellation fees or liquidation damages are required if the homeowner decides not to use the contractor after insurance approval of the claim. In some instances you may be required to pay the full agreed price if the homeowner cancels after the 3 day cancellation period. If an estimate or contract is confusing, ask the contractor to break it down into items/terms you can understand.
Disaster victims should never feel forced to make a hasty decision or to choose an unknown service. Start With Trust®. For reliable information, lists of BBB Accredited Businesses by industry and business reviews you can trust on local companies, visit www.tulsa.bbb.org or call 918-492-1266.