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State warns residents to be leery of ‘storm chaser’ repair scammers

Great article in the Capital Times about being leery of ‘storm chaser” companies:  http://bit.ly/lap0C7,

written by:  BILL NOVAK | The Capital Times

Severe weather can bring out the best in people, but it also can bring out scammers preying on those who need to have home repairs done quickly.

The state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection issued a warning on Monday to use caution when hiring a contractor to fix any damage from severe storms and tornadoes that raked the state on Sunday.

The faux repair crews are called “storm chasers,” relying on the gullability of homeowners to pay up front for repairs, then scooting with the money without lifting a hammer.

“Storm chasers follow the path of a major storm, going from home to home to pressure victims into paying up front for quick repairs,” said Sandy Chalmers, administrator of the Division of Trade and Consumer Protection in a press release. “Do your homework before hiring anyone for home repairs.”

Home repair contractors aren’t licensed by the state, but they are supposed to be registered with the state to work here.

“Storm chasers typically come from out of state,” Chalmers said. “They have little or no background in home repair and charge high prices for shoddy work.”

How to avoid the scam:

• Be wary of any contractor who knocks at your door. Call the police or sheriff’s department to check them out.

• Try to get a local contractor. Ask contractors if they are subcontracting your job. Be careful if a local contractor is using an outside subcontractor.

• Get lien waivers from anyone you pay for home repairs. It’s necessary to do so, because if the person collecting the money for the job doesn’t pay the supplier or worker, a lien could be put on your house.

• Get a written contract, with a start date and completion date, and warranty information. Make sure the contract says exactly what work is being done, materials used and if a down payment is required. Do not rely on a verbal commitment.

• Registered contractors get a card from the state. Ask to see it.

• Have someone watch the work being done; ask the local building inspector to check on the work.

• Request a copy of the contractor’s certificate of liability insurance.

• Check with the Wisconsin Better Business Bureau, 800-273-1002, or the state Bureau of Consumer Protection, 800-422-7128, to see if there are any complaints on record against a contractor you might consider.