Beware the Storm Chasers

Gizmo Guy was late with gadget suggestions  to help you through the storm, sorry. But let me be the first – with help from Angie’s List – to warn about the fly-by-night con artists about to descend on your damaged neighborhood, offering clean up/fix up help.

These so called “Storm-Chaser” contractors were a plague on Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina, with more than 6,000 repair-related complaints filed with the Attorney General’s office.  Many victims had handed over cash upfront (a big no-no) to a “helpful” contractor who just happened to be working in the neighborhood – but would never be seen again. Other victims  overpaid for roof replacements when a mere patch job would have sufficed. Storm Chasers  also try to con you out of cash
 with the promise of  quick tree service, window repair, plumbing,  electrical fixes and carpet/flooring replacement.

A leading provider of consumer reviews on local contractors and service companies, Angie’s List founder Angie Hicks today issued a tip list for after the storm best practices.

The good advice includes documenting any damage with pictures, calling at least three reputable contractors  and checking their credentials (license, insurance, experience with  similar jobs.) Be forewarned, the best repair guys are usually busy. And you will have to fork over some moolah in advance for materials.

 Another good point – and one I learned the hard way – is to review your home owner’s insurance policy before putting in a claim.  Water damage isn’t always covered. And even when you’re clearly not at fault, an insurance company  often socks a claimant  with a premium penalty fee. In my case a 10 percent surcharge was added to the insurance bill for three years after a criminal on the run from the police drove his getaway car onto the sidewalk and took out my steps.  The repair money received from the insurance company (after deductible) was less than the penalties thereafter slapped on the policy.

GG got another good tip today from my electrical contractor, John Siemiarowski.  If your power is out and you’re thinking about buying an auxiliary  power generator to restore the lights and heat and keep the fridge going,  you’re too late. “The inventories at Home Depot and Lowe’s have been totally decimated.”  shared  this “master of electrical wizardry.”

But by next week, those same stores will have lots of generators back in stock, maybe at reduced prices   – because recent buyers  have shamelessly returned the units, used.  For the next big outage,  Siemiarowski recommends Honda power generators – “pricey but quiet and you get 12-14 hours of use out of a tank of fuel, as long as you’re not trying to turn on the air conditioning.”