Avoid being taken after the storm

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After a hurricane, there are always those who try to take advantage of homeowners who are recovering from the storm. There are some important tips to avoid being ripped off.

Roofers or builders

  • Don't be rushed into signing a contract with any company. Instead, collect business cards and get written estimates for the proposed job.
  • Beware of building contractors that encourage you to spend a lot of money on temporary repairs. Payments for temporary repairs are covered as part of the total settlement. If you pay a contractor a large sum for a temporary repair job, you may not have enough money for permanent repairs. In most cases, you should be able to make the temporary repairs yourself. Remember to keep receipts. Your insurer will reimburse you for these costs.
  • Investigate the track record of any roofer, builder or contractor that you consider hiring. Look for professionals that have a solid reputation in your community. You can call your Better Business Bureau for help. Also, get references and never give anyone a deposit until after you have thoroughly researched their background.
  • A common fraud scheme is for a "so-called" contractor to convince a homeowner that a large deposit must be provided before repair work can begin. Frequently, the job will be started, but not completed. Unfortunately, these con artists are never seen or heard from again.

Public adjusters and attorneys

  • Don't make any rash decisions about hiring someone to handle your claim. Be especially wary of individuals who go door-to-door soliciting business in the aftermath of a catastrophe. Most importantly, don't let anyone scare you into signing a contract. You don't want to be victimized by someone who is swooping into town to make a fast buck. You could end up forfeiting a significant portion of your insurance dollars.
  • Before hiring a public adjuster or an attorney, try to settle your claim directly with your insurance company. Your insurer provides an adjuster at no charge to you. Ask your insurance agent or company representative to help you with your claim and don't be afraid to ask questions. If you decide to work directly with your insurer, you still have the right to hire a third-party professional to help you.
  • If your claim is complicated and you want to hire a public adjuster or attorney, make sure he/she is qualified to handle your case. Ask your friends, relatives or business associates for the names of well-regarded professionals in your community. Also, call the state department of insurance regarding a public adjuster and your state or county bar association about a prospective attorney.
  • Understand that you will have to pay a public adjuster 15 percent and an attorney 30 percent of your total claim settlement.

From the Insurance Information Institute