Hurricane Sandy: Tips to avoid repair scams

The roof of this house in Linfield was ripped off from the gusty storm Monday night. Photo by Kevin Hoffman/The Mercury

POTTSTOWN — In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the Pottsotwn Building Industries Exchange (NARI-BIE), offers tips for homeowners affected by flood damage to avoid home repair scams.

According to NARI-BIE, con artists often show up at a homeowner’s door after a disaster, offering an array of services and demanding a hefty down payment up front. They might offer a “great deal,” based on using materials left over from a neighbor’s job, but homeowners should beware that a “great deal” isn’t always what it seems. Frequently, these fly-by-night operators drive vehicles with out-of-state license plates, or set up temporary offices from which they can move quickly once authorities start looking for them. Before writing that check, and especially before allowing any unknown individual into your home, NARI suggests that a homeowner:

• Get the name and address of the company that person allegedly represents.

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• Get all details of the offer in writing and carefully review it. Be sure you understand everything in the contract and that any verbal promises made are included in the contract.

• Determine how long the company has been in business and call organizations with which the contractor is affiliated, such as NARI or other trade associations, to determine the firm’s legitimacy.

• Ask for references and contact each one.

• Remember that any legitimate company that wants your business will be more than willing to allow you the time to do your homework. Don’t fall prey to high-pressure tactics such as “this is the only chance you have” or “by tomorrow the extra materials will be gone.”

Homeowners should be especially skeptical if they....

• Come to your door unsolicited.

• Use high-pressure sales tactics.

• Request full payment before completing the work.

• Give a post office box without a street address or phone number.

• Promise to begin and complete the work more quickly and cheaply than any other company.

• Say they just finished work on your neighbor’s house and have just enough materials to do repair work on yours. They might say they can give you a better bargain if you let them do the work today since they have the supplies now.

NARI-BIE, a nonprofit trade association serving the construction industry and their allied businesses, since 1952, is the sponsor of the Pottstown Home Show, returning to Sunnybrook March 1-3, 2013, and local contractor referral organization. Additional information about NARI-BIE services and programs may be obtained by visiting http://pottstownbie.org, their office at 801 N. Charlotte St., or by calling 610-323-1700.

NARI is a professional association whose members voluntarily subscribe to a strict code of ethics. Homeowners may wish to search www.NARI.org for additional tips, or to find a qualified professional who is a member of NARI. Homeowners may also call the NARI National hotline at 847-298-9200 and request a free copy of NARI’s brochure, “How to Select a Remodeling Professional.”