Better Business Bureau

We’ve seen the destructive power of tornadoes, straight-line winds, and floods in Arkansas. Tornadoes can cause deaths and devastate a neighborhood in seconds – not giving you and your family time to prepare. It can be a matter of life and death.

You know from watching Channel 7, we have the technology and experience to keep you informed before and during a severe storm. We are dedicated to keeping you and your family safe. It is the most important thing we do. Always has been…always will be.

It’s that dedication to your safety that led us to team up with the Better Business Bureau to introduce the Emergency Preparedness: Before and After the Storm campaign.

Throughout the year, KATV’s weather team will provide you with life saving tips and information to prepare you before the storm. In addition, Seven on Your Side’s, Jason Pederson, will partner with the BBB to inform you of what to look out for after the storm. We will help you find reputable, well–established companies in your area that will prevent you from being a victim of fraud or scams by people with unscrupulous business practices.

You need to know what your risks are. Knowing what to do and preparing for it can help you survive and recover from a catastrophe.

Protect yourself, your family and your property
before, during, and after severe weather with these forms and tips:

Advice From the Better Business Bureau

Click on title to expand information

Advice from the BBB

The damage caused by natural disasters such as tornadoes, hail, and wind storms can often bring out the best in people, as strangers reach out to help others in need. Unfortunately, the aftermath of a crisis also brings out persons who take advantage of those who have already been victimized. Some of the most common "after-disasters" scams involve home repairs, clean-up efforts, heating and cooling equipment, and flood-damaged cars. The people who perpetrate theses scams are called ’Storm Chasers‘.

As the name implies, Storm Chasers show up in the aftermath of a disaster or storm, appearing to have the perfect solution to the consumers storm related issues. They often contact consumers without the consumer personally contacting them with a, "I just happen to be in your neighborhood" story. They offer too good to be true prices with a warranty that would seem to cover everything. They will "take care of everything". All you have to do is sign here. That is when the pain begins. It may not be immediate, but it will come.

The one thing that always stands out, that a consumer fails to realize, is where will the company be if there are problems with the work that was done? What happens in 3 months if the roof leaks in the next storm? How can you contact them? How are they going to help the consumer if they are out of state chasing another storm?

The Better Business Bureau can help you find reputable, well established companies that are in your area and WILL BE in your area when you need them in the future. The BBB requests business information from companies in order to evaluate them and provide vetted, accurate information to the public. This process allows us to confidently direct consumers to businesses they can TRUST for the services they are requesting.

The Better Business Bureau has the following advice for consumers in the aftermath of a disaster or storm:

  • Check with your insurance company about policy coverage and specific filing requirements the company may have.
  • Although you may be anxious to get things back to normal, avoid acting in haste. Don’t be pressured into signing contracts. Make temporary repairs if necessary.
  • For major permanent repairs, take time to shop around for contractors, get competitive bids, check out references, and get a report from the BBB.
  • Be wary of door-to-door workers who claim your home is unsafe. If you are concerned about possible structural damage in your home, have an engineer, architect, or county official inspect it.
  • Prepare a written agreement with anyone you hire. It should delineate the work to be done, the materials to be used, and the price breakdown for both labor and materials. Review it carefully before signing. Never pay for all repairs in advance, and don't pay cash.

For 100 years, the Better Business Bureau has been helping consumers find businesses, brands and charities they trust. BBB has Business Reviews on 11,000 charities, all available for free at www.bbb.org. The Council of Better Business Bureaus is the umbrella organization for 116 local, independent BBBS across the United States and Canada, as well as home to its national programs on dispute resolution and industry self-regulation. If you have a question about an Arkansas charity you may contact your Arkansas BBB at www.bbb.org/arkansas or at 501-664-4888.

Tips on Storm Relief Donations

In the wake of severe storms that came through Arkansas, the BBB offers the following tips to help Arkansans decide where to direct donations to assist storm victims and their families:

Be cautious when giving online.
Be cautious about online giving, especially in response to spam messages and emails that claim to link to a relief organization. If you are seeking to give to a charity organization involved in relief efforts, go directly to the charity’s Web site.

Rely on expert opinion when it comes to evaluating a charity.
Be careful when relying on third-party recommendations such as bloggers or other Web sites, as they might not have fully researched the listed relief organizations. The public can go to www.bbb.org/charity to research charities and relief organizations to verify that they are accredited by the BBB and meet the 20 Standards for Charity Accountability.

Be wary of claims that 100 percent of donations will assist relief victims.
Despite what an organization might claim, charities have fund raising and administrative costs. Even a credit card donation will involve, at a minimum, a processing fee. If a charity claims 100 percent of collected funds will be assisting victims, the truth is that the organization is still probably incurring fund raising and administrative expenses. They may use some of their other funds to pay this, but the expenses will still be incurred.

Find out if the charity has an on-the-ground presence in the impacted areas.
See if the charity's website clearly describes what they can do to address immediate needs. Watch out for charities that don't already have staff in the effected areas as they may not be able to provide assistance quickly.

Find out if the charity is providing direct aid or raising money for other groups.
Some charities may be raising money to pass along to relief organizations. If so, you may want to consider "avoiding the middleman" and giving directly to charities that have a presence in the region. Or, at a minimum, check out the ultimate recipients of these donations to ensure the organizations are equipped to effectively provide aid.

Gifts of clothing, food or other in–kind donations.
In–kind drives for food and clothing – while well intentioned – may not necessarily be the quickest way to help those in need – unless the organization has the staff and infrastructure to be able to properly distribute such aid. Ask the charity about their transportation and distribution plans. Be wary of those who are not experienced in disaster relief assistance.

For 100 years, the Better Business Bureau has been helping consumers find businesses, brands and charities they trust. BBB has Business Reviews on 11,000 charities, all available for free at www.bbb.org. The Council of Better Business Bureaus is the umbrella organization for 116 local, independent BBBS across the United States and Canada, as well as home to its national programs on dispute resolution and industry self-regulation. If you have a question about an Arkansas charity you may contact your Arkansas BBB at www.bbb.org/arkansas or at 501-664-4888.

Disaster Preparedness

Before and After Disasters – Be Prepared

Emergency preparedness is not just the concern of people on the west coast who have earthquakes, those who live in "Tornado Alley" or Gulf Coast residents who experience hurricanes. Most communities may be affected by several types of catastrophes during a lifetime. Therefore, knowing what to do before, during and after an emergency is a critical part of being prepared and may make all the difference when seconds count.

Some of the basic protective actions are similar for multiple disasters. For example, safety is necessary when experiencing all hazards. Depending on the specific emergency, this could include plans for sheltering or evacuating. Developing a family communication plan or making an emergency supply kit are the same for most emergencies, natural disasters and terrorism. However, there are important differences among potential emergencies that should influence the decisions you make and the actions you take.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) suggests having a basic emergency kit with the following essentials in case of a disaster:

Emergency Documents Packet:

  • Social Security card
  • Any other official, hard–to–replace documents
  • Contact information: Both your contact information and your emergency contacts’ info. This includes your nearest relatives, your will executor(s), and employers.
  • Will and medical directives: Add a copy of your will/living trust and medical letter of instructions (keep the originals with your legal representative). You can upload a PDF file to Google Docs for this purpose.
  • Insurance: Homeowners, auto, medical, life, disability, and other insurance agents/brokers contact info and policy numbers.
  • Financial accounts: Bank, investment, and credit card/loan accounts information, including institution names, phone numbers, and account numbers.
  • Health records: Immunization records, allergies, dietary restrictions, medications, medical/surgical treatments.
  • Pet information: Description of each pet, vet contact information, and any important medical notes.
  • Property: Car information, home purchase papers/deeds, and other home inventory items.

Supplies:

  • Water and food for three days. (One gallon per person per day.)
  • Blankets
  • A manual can opener
  • First aid kit
  • Dust mask, to help filter contaminated air, and plastic sheeting and duct tape to provide protection from the outdoor elements
  • Moist towelettes, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal hygiene purposes
  • Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities
  • Local maps
  • Small battery-operated radio with extra batteries or an emergency crank combination radio, flashlight, and clock device

The BBB recommends using FEMA’s website at http://www.ready.gov/ to learn about the potential emergencies that could occur where you live and the appropriate ways to respond to them. When you know what to do, you can plan and prepare in advance to be ready. The FEMA website provides information about how to protect your household and begin recovery following the initial disaster.

Familiarize yourself with the signs of events that come without warning and know the local advance alerts and warnings and how you will receive them. Knowing about the local emergency plans for shelter and evacuation, local emergency contacts, the locations frequented by members of your household and the specific needs of household members including animals will help you reduce the impact of disasters, may save lives and prevent injuries during a crisis.

Natural disasters like tornados, hurricanes, floods, fires and earthquakes can bring out the best in people, as strangers reach out to help others in need. Unfortunately, crisis also bring out persons who choose to take advantage of the victims.

Disaster victims should never feel forced to make a hasty decision or to choose an unknown contractor. For 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping consumers find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. BBB has Business Reviews on more than 4 million companies and Charity Reviews on 11,000 charities, all available for free at www.bbb.org. The Council of Better Business Bureaus is the umbrella organization for 116 local, independent BBBs across the United States and Canada, as well as home to its national programs on dispute resolution and home to its national programs on dispute resolution and industry self-regulation. You may contact your Arkansas BBB at www.bbb.org/arkansas or at 501-664-4888.

Tips on document retention

Copies of your important documentation should ideally be stored somewhere away from your home either in a secure physical location or in "cloud based" storage. As far as document retention is concerned, a good rule of thumb might be that there is no reason to maintain any record that may be recovered from another source. Public records such as mortgages, deeds and certificates of live birth can be easily retrieved. While insurance policies can be recovered from your insurance company, it is the better practice during an emergency to be able to put your hands on your policies for ease of use to file a claim. Similarly speaking it is useful to save receipts for major items, cancelled notes, medical records that set out unique medical issues and children's Social Security information.

With paper records, it is important that they be stored in a container that is both airtight, waterproof and fireproof. A safety deposit box is certainly good for this purpose but it is also good to maintain your records with a trusted friend or relative in another town in the event that your bank is in the same area that has sustained storm damage.

"Cloud based" storage is a safe and secure method of storing your important documents. Some services, such as Carbonite, basically make a copy of all the documents on your computer and upload them to the cloud. While these services are very good, the retrieving pictures from a cloud based service can be extremely slow. Accordingly, it is best to turn any pictures that you have taken for insurance purposes into pdf documents and to store these in a portable hard drive that is kept offsite. This is because data that is stored as a pdf document does not "lose" or degrade at the same rate as a jpeg document. For the average consumer attempting to preserve the usual photographs of contents in the house either format is acceptable but pdf is preferred.

Whether you use a safe deposit box, the cloud or a portable hard drive, it is important that the consumer store his or her important documents in a safe and secure environment away from the home where they can be accessed quickly in case of a disaster.

For 100 years, the Better Business Bureau has been helping consumers find businesses, brands and charities they trust. BBB has Business Reviews on 11,000 charities, all available for free at www.bbb.org. The Council of Better Business Bureaus is the umbrella organization for 116 local, independent BBBS across the United States and Canada, as well as home to its national programs on dispute resolution and industry self-regulation. If you have a question about an Arkansas charity you may contact your Arkansas BBB at www.bbb.org/arkansas or at 501-664-4888.

Hiring a Restoration Contractor

It’s Springtime here in Arkansas! And springtime always brings with it the threat of violent weather and water damage to property. When returning to a home that has sustained water damage, you must consider the possibility of mold damage. This must be dealt with quickly and properly in order to lessen or mitigate the problem of mold contamination.

Floods and other natural disasters can often bring out the best in people. Unfortunately, these stressful events attract unscrupulous or incompetent contractors out to make a fast buck from the misfortune of others. Your Better Business Bureau has the following suggestions for consumers needing to restore their homes after water damage:

  • Don’t sign anything you don’t understand. Ask a friend, a relative, business person or an attorney to review any contract that you do not understand. A second set of eyes reviewing a contract you are unsure about might save you lots of money and will not hurt in any event. If someone insists that you have to sign on the spot, you need to go find another contractor.
  • Hire only local and contractors qualified in mold remediation and property restoration. To find local contractors and restorers check with the Cleaning and Restoration Association and the Restoration Industry Association for a list of contractors maintained by it. When talking to a potential contractor for your restoration job, ask to see a list of references. Call them!
  • Further, as a rule of thumb, be very suspicious of any contractor that contacts you out–of–the–blue or is going door to door to offer his services. It is the far better practice to deal only with people that you have invited to come out to your property.
  • Act promptly. Every insurance contract requires the policyholder to mitigate damages. Do what you can safely do to mitigate your loss. Some examples include cutting off the water, moving contents (things inside your house) to a safe place and tarping the roof (but only if it can be safely done).
  • Do not be surprised if the insurance check is issued to both you you and the lender that holds your mortgage or if your contractor requires you to sign a statement acknowledging that the lien of the mortgage attaches to the insurance check. This is a common practice after Hurricane Katrina and helps to make sure that the insurance check is being used to restore the property.
  • Keep a copy of any contract you sign or any warranty papers your contractor might give you.
  • Don’t get in a hurry. If you live in an area in which there has been extensive damage it may take a while for local contractors to get around to you and you may be frustrated. That is understandable. But the scammer understands this too and will attempt to manipulate these feelings of frustration to your detriment. Again, try not to be pressured into making a decision that might come back to haunt you later.
  • Be highly suspicious of any contractor that tries to get you to pay for the entire job on the front end. You may never see him again after you give him your money! For certain jobs it might be OK to pay a deposit. Again, check with a trusted friend, a relative or your insurance agent to see if payment of a deposit is customary for your particular job.
  • Some contracts contain a clause where substantial cancellation fees or something called liquidated damages are required if the homeowner decides not to use the contractor after the cancellation period referred to in the contract. Liquidated damages are damages that both sides agree to up front if the contract is breached. Liquidated damages clauses are perfectly legal but they are often buried in the fine print of the contract. The liquidated damages clause in your contract may mean that you might be liable for as much as the entire dollar amount if you try to get out of the contract after the cancellation period! If an estimate or a contract is confusing don’t be afraid to ask the contractor to break it down into terms you can understand. Again, don’t sign anything you don’t understand or that you don’t agree with!
  • People at the greatest risk from mold are people with asthma, allergies or other breathing conditions. Also people with suppressed immune systems are at higher risk of mold infections. If there is mold in your home it must be cleaned up and the water problem that caused it must be fixed. Controlling moisture is the most critical factor for preventing mold growth. If you don’t control the moisture the mold will return.
  • To remove mold from hard surfaces, use commercial products for this purpose or use a bleach solution of 1 cup of bleach to a gallon of water. Do not mix bleach with ammonia! Open windows and doors. Wear non–porous gloves, eyewear and a N95 mask and wear it when inside the building.
  • If your heating, ventilation and air conditioning system (HVAC) was flooded, have the system checked and cleaned by a service technician before you turn it on.

In the unfortunate event that you have a complaint about a contractor or about the work done on your house or property you may contact us here at BBB in order to take advantage of BBB’s dispute resolution services. You may also want to contact you’re the Arkansas Contractors Licensing Board website at http://aclb.arkansas.gov or you can call them at 501–372–4661. You may also contact the Arkansas Attorney of Arkansas at http://www.ag.arkansas.gov or toll free at 1–800–482–8982.

Water and mold damage from a natural disaster is a stressful event. And none of us are at our best when we are frustrated or stressed out. However, remembering these simple suggestions will help you make a better decision during a stressful time. Further, additional useful information on this subject can be found on the Environmental Protection Agency's website.

For 100 years, the Better Business Bureau has been helping consumers find businesses, brands and charities they trust. BBB has Business Reviews on 11,000 charities, all available for free at www.bbb.org. The Council of Better Business Bureaus is the umbrella organization for 116 local, independent BBBS across the United States and Canada, as well as home to its national programs on dispute resolution and industry self-regulation. If you have a question about an Arkansas charity you may contact your Arkansas BBB at www.bbb.org/arkansas or at 501-664-4888.

Resources for Consumers and Businesses Affected by Recent Storms

Better Business Bureau understands that the days after a disaster is a stressful time for victims therefore we have compiled the below list of helpful resources to aid you in your clean–up efforts.

  • For general questions regarding the reliability of a business, contact the BBB at www.bbb.org. Or, here in Arkansas you can contact us on the Internet at www.bbb.org/arkansas or by telephone at 501–664–4888.
  • Many localities require additional licensing after a disaster, to check a business license or local codes related to storm clean–up, contact your local city/county licensing department for this information.
  • To ensure that a company is registered to do business in your state, contact the Office of the Secretary of State on the web at http://www.arkansas.sos.gov or by telephone at 501–682–1010.
  • Check with your insurance company about policy coverage and specific filing requirements.
  • For clean–up related to potentially harmful chemicals, contact the Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality on the web at http://www.adeq.state.ar.us or at 501–682–0744.
  • If you have downed power lines or broken gas lines, contact your service provider or call 911 if an immediate danger exists.
  • For general advice on coping after a disaster, contact the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at 1–800–621–FEMA (3362) or www.fema.gov. Or, you may contact the Arkansas Office of Emergency Management on the web at http://adem.arkansas.gov or at 501–683–6700.
  • To find out about possible road closures and detours, contact the Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Commission at http://arkansashighways.com or at 1–800–245–1672. You may also contact you city and County officials. You may also access road information through a link in the Office of Emergency Management website set out above.
  • For general questions or complaints related to insurance, contact the Arkansas Insurance Department at http://insurance.arkansas.gov. Consumers may call toll free at 1–800–852–5494. Seniors may call toll free at 1–800–224–6330.

For 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping consumers find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. BBB has Business Reviews on more than 4 million companies and Charity Reviews on 11,000 charities all available for free at www.bbb.org. The Council of Better Business Bureaus is the umbrella organization for 116 local, independent BBBs across the United States and Canada, as well as home to its national programs on dispute resolution and industry self–regulation. The website and telephone number for your Arkansas BBB is set above.

Tips for disaster related insurance

Disaster Preparation: Your Insurance Checklist

Your BBB recommends you take some basic preparedness steps to help you plan for a natural disaster, which can help ease the stress and anxiety caused if your home is damaged by storms:

Preparing for a Disaster

  • Create and maintain an inventory of your personal possessions. Use a camera to take pictures or video of both the interior and exterior of your home as well as your property, including items stored on your property such as vehicles or lawn/farm equipment. Maintain receipts for any major items. This documentation should be saved in a safe place outside the home, such as in a safe deposit box at your bank.
  • Keep all of your insurance policies organized and in an easily accessible spot. Review your coverages each year to make sure they are adequate should you have storm damage to your home, your vehicle or your property. Discuss with your insurance agent what liabilities you might have, if any, should any of your personal items or trees cause damage to neighboring homes or properties during a storm.
  • Be sure to note deadlines for filing claims.
  • Make sure you carry your policy numbers and contact information for your insurance company with you at all times.

In addition, your BBB offers the following suggestions to help homeowners who find themselves repairing or rebuilding their home from storm damage:

  • Contact your insurance adjuster immediately. Not only does this get the ball rolling on the claims process, but you might be eligible for loss–of–use benefits which means you could be reimbursed for hotel costs, food, and other living expenses while your house is unlivable. Be sure to document all conversations with your insurance company or their adjuster and get any promises for reimbursements in writing. Be sure to maintain all receipts.
  • Start seeking out current replacement costs for items you’ll be including in your claim rather than depending solely on historical costs.
  • Document the damage to your property and possessions thoroughly; take pictures or video if possible. Go from room to room or document all debris piles and create a detailed account of your belongings and losses.
  • Make any minor repairs that you can do safely to minimize further damage to your home. You could be found liable for damage that occurs after a storm has passed, so make temporary repairs such as boarding up broken windows, removing wet drywall and carpet to prevent mold and putting up a tarp over a leaky roof. Beware of fly by night contractors who may try to offer these services for exorbitant fees. Be sure to get quotes in writing in advance or seek out volunteer groups in your area that may be offering assistance for free.
  • If your home is unlivable, contact your utility company to turn off your water and gas or electric services.
  • Do not make any permanent repairs until you get approval from your insurance company. Make sure you understand how your homeowner’s insurance company will reimburse your repair costs. Before spending money, call your insurance company first to make sure all necessary procedures are followed according to your policy.
  • Beware of door to door contractors who ask you to sign an agreement to allow them to contact your insurance company and seek approval of repairs for you. Many unscrupulous companies have tricked consumers into signing a work estimate without reading the fine print, which commits you to automatically contract with their company if your insurance claim is approved.
  • Check to make sure any contractors you are considering hiring are properly licensed and have up to date workers compensation and liability insurance. In addition, check them out with your Better Business Bureau and make sure they are approved by your insurance company before entering an agreement.
  • Be aware that if you hire an uninsured and unlicensed contractor and a serious injury were to occur to the contractor, you as the person that hired them could potentially be liable for paying the workers compensation benefits. This could turn a simple $1,000 repair into a bill for tens of thousands more.
  • In addition, a neighboring property, a passerby or other property that is negligently damaged by an unlicensed contractor can become a liability to the person that hired the contractor.
  • Do not hand over an insurance check to a contractor for repairs prior to work being started. A good rule of thumb is to never give more than 1/3 of the job price up front and make sure that your insurance company has approved all repairs before your final payment is given to the company.

For 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping consumers find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. BBB has Business Reviews on more than 4 million companies and Charity Reviews on 11,000 charities, all available for free at www.bbb.org. The Council of Better Business Bureaus is the umbrella organization for 116 local, independent BBBs across United States and Canada, as well as home to its national programs on dispute resolution and industry self–regulation. You can contact your local BBB at www.bbb.org/arkansas or 501–664–4888.

Tips on Debris Removal

Disposal of debris can be a major concern. No matter what state you live in, the type of debris you will encounter will be much the same: damaged buildings, downed trees, building materials, and household and other types of hazardous waste. What varies is the way in which each state disposes of the debris. Some states have particular issues about where debris can be stored.

Consumers should check with their state’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) or equivalent or FEMA for information on where debris may be stored. Remember, your main goal is to regain your sense of normalcy while doing so within the guidelines set by each state or federal agency.

BBB offers the following tips and information for debris removal:

Debris is hazardous. It often has sharp or rough edges; it may cause falls; it may contain hazardous material such as asbestos, lead or fiberglass; and it may have been contaminated with chemicals or germs by the flood or storm.

When cleaning up debris, one of the first steps is to assess the types of waste you are dealing with, and what the disposal procedures should be. They fall into four main categories and can be disposed of in the following ways:

  • Branches, trees and vegetative wastes can be separated from the other debris and later can be sent to the community burn pile. These wastes can also be sent to a permitted disposal site.
  • Construction debris – the structural materials from houses and buildings, such as concrete, boards, shingles, windows, siding, pipes, etc. – can be taken to the closest construction and demolition (C&D) landfill or a permitted municipal solid waste landfill.
  • Other household wastes, such as trash and furniture, should be sent to a permitted municipal landfill.
  • Hazardous wastes – If you believe the waste contains regulated hazardous materials, more care and caution is needed. These wastes should be containerized, labeled, and ultimately sent to a facility that is permitted to store, treat or dispose of hazardous wastes. In these instances, it is important to contact the department to discuss proper disposal procedures.

Items Requiring Special Disposal:

  • Pool chemicals
  • Tires
  • Automobile batteries
  • Bicycles
  • PVC pipe
  • Explosives (ammunition, re–loading equipment, black powder, military ordinance, fireworks)
  • Fuel containers, metal or plastic
  • Pressurized gas cylinders/tanks (propane tanks, acetylene tanks, refrigerant containers)
  • Containers of petroleum based liquids, solvents, chemicals, etc.
  • Large household appliances (refrigerators, freezers, stoves, washers, dryers, etc.)
  • Off–road, gas-powered equipment (lawn mowers, tractors, edgers, leaf blowers and other lawn equipment, chainsaws, 4–wheelers, etc.
  • Lawn and garden supplies (fertilizers, pesticides, etc.)
  • Radioactive waste
  • Industrial/commercial hazardous waste
  • Medical waste
  • Automobiles
  • Electrical transformers

Any appliances that could potentially contain Freon or other chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) cannot be disposed of until they have been certified as being free of Freon or CFCs.

Disaster victims should never feel forced to make a hasty decision or to choose an unknown contractor. Start With Trust. For reliable information, lists of BBB Accredited Businesses by industry and BBB Business Reviews you can trust on local businesses, visit www.bbb.org or you can contact your local BBB at www.bbb.org/arkansas or 501–664–4888.

Hiring Disaster Repair Services

DO YOUR HOMEWORK WHEN HIRING DISASTER REPAIR SERVICES

The Better Business Bureau reminds those who experience storm damage to take certain precautions when cleaning up and making repair decisions.

Natural disasters like tornados, hurricanes, floods, fires and earthquakes 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 your auto, home and yard repairs or clean–up. Your Better Business Bureau offers the following tips to homeowners who suffer auto and property damage in the wake of a natural disaster:

  • 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.
  • 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 with a long–term impact. Be pro–active in selecting a business and not re–active to sales solicitations. Make temporary repairs if necessary.
  • For major repairs, take time to shop around and get 3–4 estimates based on the same specifications and materials. Check out references that are at least one year–old, verify with (LOCAL AGENCY NAME, PH # & WEBSITE) that businesses are required to be licensed/registered to do work in your area and all work inside homes that pre–dates 1978 must be done by contractors that are Certified to Conduct Lead–Based Paint Activities and Renovations.
  • Be wary of door–to–door workers who claim to have left–over materials from a job "down the street" or who do not have a permanent place of business. If sales people go door–to–door, check to see if your community requires them to have solicitation permits.
  • Be leery if a worker shows up on your doorstep to announce that your home is unsafe. If you are concerned about possible structural damage in your home, have an engineer, architect or building official inspect it.
  • 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 orally 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 contract. Read and understand the contract in its entirety and don’t sign a blank contract. A copy of the signed contract is to be given to you at time of signature.
  • Once you have found a contractor, request proof of a current insurance certificate covering workman’s compensation, property damage and personal liability.
  • Never pay in full for all repairs in advance, and do not pay cash! While many businesses may ask for a deposit, BBB suggests that no more one–third of the job be paid up front. Be sure the contract specifies the schedule for releasing payments to the contractor.

Disaster victims should never feel forced to make a hasty decision or to choose an unknown business. Start With Trust. For reliable information, lists of BBB Accredited Businesses by industry and BBB Business Reviews you can trust on local businesses, visit www.bbb.org or you can contact your local BBB at www.bbb.org/arkansas or 501–664–4888.

Hiring a Tree Service After a Disaster

Better Business Bureau reminds those who experience storm damage to take certain precautions when hiring a tree service.

Natural disasters like tornados, hurricanes and earthquakes 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. Better Business Bureau offers the following tips to homeowners who suffer tree damage in the wake of a natural disaster:

  • 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.
  • Verify with (LOCAL AGENCY NAME, PH # & WEBSITE) that businesses are required to be licensed/registered to do work in your area.
  • Check to see whether the business in question is a member of any reputable trade association, such as the Tree Care Industry Association, 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 tree service you are considering has current liability insurance and workers compensation insurance. All certificates of insurance should be sent from the tree service's insurance agency directly to you. Otherwise, it could be a fraudulent certificate.
  • Require a written contract agreement with anyone you hire. Be sure their name, address, license number, if applicable, and phone number are included in the contract. Read and understand the contract in its entirety and don't sign a blank contract. A copy of the signed contract is to be given to you at time of signature. Do not assume that tree stump removal is included in the contract if it is not specified.
  • Once you have picked a tree service you feel comfortable with, never pay for a tree removal or tree trimming 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. 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.

    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.

Disaster victims should never feel forced to make a hasty decision or to choose an unknown business. Start With Trust. For reliable information, lists of BBB Accredited Businesses by industry and BBB Business Reviews you can trust on local businesses, visit www.bbb.org or you can contact your local BBB at www.bbb.org/arkansas or 501–664–4888.

Hiring a Roofing Contractor After a Disaster

Better Business Bureau reminds those who experience storm and hail damage to take certain precautions when hiring a roofing contractor.

Natural disasters like tornados, hurricanes and earthquakes 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 roofs. Better Business Bureau offers the following tips to homeowners who suffer roof damage in the wake of a natural disaster:

  • Check with your insurance company about policy coverage and specific filing requirements. Save all receipts if temporary roofing repairs are necessary.
  • 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 with a long-term impact. Be pro-active in selecting a business and not re-active to sales solicitations.
  • For major repairs, take time to shop around and get 3-4 estimates based on the same specifications and materials. Check out references that are at least one year-old, verify with (LOCAL AGENCY NAME, PH # & WEBSITE) that businesses are required to be licensed/registered to do work in your area and check with your local building inspector to see if a building permit is required.
  • Be wary of door-to-door workers who claim to have left-over materials from a job "down the street" or who do not have a permanent place of business. If sales people go door-to-door, check to see if your community requires them to have solicitation permits.
  • Be leery if a worker shows up on your doorstep to announce that your home is unsafe. If you are concerned about possible structural damage in your home, have an engineer, architect or building official inspect it. While most roofing contractors abide by the law, be careful allowing someone you do not know inspect your roof. An unethical contractor may actually create damage to get work.
  • Require a written contract agreement with anyone you hire. Be sure their name, address, license number, if applicable, and phone number are included in the contract. Read and understand the contract in its entirety, and don't sign a blank contract. A copy of the signed contract is to be given to you at time of signature.

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 three-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 business. Start With Trust. For reliable information, lists of BBB Accredited Businesses by industry and BBB Business Reviews you can trust on local businesses, visit www.bbb.org or you can contact your local BBB at www.bbb.org/arkansas or 501–664–4888.