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BBB tips for winter storm damage

The Northwest is being hit with record snow amounts and low temperatures wreaking havoc on roads, roofs and pipes. The Better Business Bureau reminds those who experience damage to take certain precautions when cleaning up and making repair decisions.

Natural disasters like this can bring out the best in people, as strangers reach out to help others in need. Unfortunately, emergencies also bring out those who choose to take advantage of victims.

Better Business Bureau serving the Northwest offers the following tips to homeowners who suffer property damage in the wake of a natural disaster:

    Know your coverage. Check with your insurance company about policy coverage and specific filing requirements. Save all receipts, including those for food, temporary lodging or other expenses that may be covered under your policy.

    Think before you act. Although you may be eager to get things back to normal, avoid letting your emotions get the better of you. Don’t be pressured into making an immediate decision with a long-term impact. Be proactive in selecting a business and not reactive to solicitations. Make temporary repairs if necessary to buy you more time for researching repairs and contractors.

    Shop around. For major repairs, take time to research and get three to four estimates based on the same specifications and materials.

    Be wary of door-to-door workers. Oftentimes they claim to have left-over materials from a job “down the street” or claim they do not have a permanent place of business. Reputable contractors or workers should provide company identification including license

    Get it in writing. Require a written contract agreement with anyone you hire. It should specify the work to be done, the materials to be used and the price breakdown for both labor and materials. Any promises made verbally should be written into the contract, including warranties on materials or labor. Be sure their name, address, license number, if applicable, and phone number along with a start and end date for the work are included in the contract. A copy of the signed contract should be given to you at time of signature.

    Be cautious with money. Never pay in full for all repairs in advance, and do not pay cash or other non-trackable form of payment. While many businesses may ask for a deposit, BBB suggests that no more than one-third of the job be paid up front. Be sure the contract specifies the schedule for releasing payments to the contractor.

Homeowners never should feel forced to make a hasty decision or to choose an unknown business. Lists of BBB-accredited businesses by industry and BBB business reviews are online at bbb.org/northwest.

Anyone who thinks they may be a victim of a scam should report it to local law enforcement and with BBB Scam Tracker at bbb.org/scamtracker.


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