UTAH, July 30, 2021 (Gephardt Daily) — Utah Better Business Bureau is offering tips to residents for dealing with flood damage and possible scams.
“Recent rainfall over Utah has led to flooding of homes and businesses, damaging property and landscapes,” said a news release from the BBB. “Flash flood warnings have been issued this summer in places all over the state, including the recent state of emergency declaration in Cedar City. As with any natural disaster like flooding, these acts of nature can bring out the best in people and rally communities to help people and businesses in need. Unfortunately, crisis situations also bring out those looking to take advantage of people who have already been victimized by the disaster.”
Dealing with damage
Natural disasters can leave homeowners with flooding, roof damage, and plumbing issues. Vehicles can get flooded and trees can sustain damage. Water damage restoration can be as simple as vacuuming up water and drying out a room, or it can be as extensive as rebuilding entire sections of your home. In either case, it’s important to do your best to deal with damage as soon as possible.
- Call your agent. The first thing you should do is call your insurance agent directly. They can help you review your policy, understand what is covered, and tell you how much time you have to file a claim.
- Gather materials. You will likely have an adjuster come inspect the damage to determine how much your insurance company will pay for the loss. You can help this process by preparing a list of damaged items, providing any available receipts of damaged items and taking photos of structural damage.
- Mitigate further damage. Dry out and disinfect impacted areas as soon as possible to help prevent mold. If you have concerns about wet carpet or rugs, start running fans and dehumidifiers. Consult an expert to see if carpet, rugs and furnishings can be salvaged.
Finding a trusted professional
When contemplating the cleanup of mold or water damage, to verify the extent of the problem you likely will need to contact a water damage restoration company.
The BBB is warning homeowners and businesses affected by flooding to beware of “storm chasers” and out-of-town contractors soliciting business, the news release said. Although not all storm chasers are scammers, they may lack the proper licensing for your area, offer quick fixes, or make big promises they can’t deliver.
- Ask for recommendations. When dealing with flooding and mold, your insurance agent may have recommendations for reliable water damage restoration companies. Get references from friends and relatives and search for businesses you can trust on BBB.org.
- Do your research. Ask businesses for references from former clients and review their website, contracts, and materials. Take time to review the company’s online presence and ratings from multiple sources. Make sure to look into every company you’re considering, even if they come recommended by your insurance company, friends, or family. Double check to make sure the business has extensive experience, especially if they will be dealing with mold.
- Verify the company’s license. Start by looking up the business with the Department of Professional Licensing (DOPL). Then, confirm the contractor is properly licensed, insured and registered for the scope of work they will be completing. For example, simply vacuuming up water and drying out a room may not need a license but once the company starts tearing out cabinets and walls then a license may be needed.
- Resist high-pressure sales. Some storm chasers use tactics such as the “good deal” you’ll get only if you hire the contractor on the spot. Be proactive in selecting a contractor and not reactive to sales calls on the phone or door-to-door pitches. Disaster victims should never feel forced to make a hasty decision or to choose an unknown contractor.
- Be especially careful of door-to-door contractors. Many municipalities require a solicitation permit if sales people go door-to-door. Ask for identification. Check their vehicle for a business name, phone number, and license plates for your state or province.
- Don’t sign over insurance checks to contractors. Get an invoice from the contractor and pay them directly (preferably with a credit card, which offers additional fraud protection over other forms of payment). Don’t sign any documents that give the contractor any rights to your insurance claims. If you have questions, contact your insurance company or agent.
- Never pay upfront. Wait until a repair job is complete and satisfactory before paying the agreed amount. Ensure all costs are listed in a written contract and review it thoroughly before signing.
- Be wary regarding places you can’t see. While most contractors abide by the law, be careful allowing someone you do not know to inspect your roof and other areas of your house. An unethical contractor may actually create damage to get work. The same goes for attics, crawl spaces, ducts, and other places you cannot easily access or see for yourself.
BBB is also warning contractors to beware of storm chasers who offer to pay local construction companies substantial amounts of money to use the business’s established name, reputation, and phone. They masquerade as a local business, collect the insurance money and then move on, leaving the real business to deal with unsatisfied customers due to bad workmanship, unfinished work, or unfulfilled warranties.
Preparing for future flooding
With warm-weather storms still brewing, it’s critical to take steps to protect your home and belongings from flood damage. Even if you have already been affected by flood damage, you should still prepare in case of future storms.
- Take photos. Having pictures or video of your car, home or business, and your valuables before possible damage can help with future insurance claims. Keep these in a separate album so they are easy to find in the event something gets damaged.
- Backup your files. Don’t leave important data on computers in places at risk of flooding. Store them on a secure portable hard drive or in the digital Cloud away from your home or business.
- Keep copies of your insurance on-hand or have electronic versions available.
- Collect mementos. Take family photos, important documents, and other irreplaceable items and keep them in a watertight container.
- Collect your medicines. Keep medicine prescriptions, contacts, glasses, and a first aid kit somewhere safe where water can’t get to it.
- Prepare an emergency kit. Pack changes of clothes, boots, flashlights, water, and emergency radios to monitor the weather without electricity.
- Discuss your emergency plan with family members, including designating a safe space inside the house, or where to meet outside in case of separation.