Avoiding storm damage repair scams: Among other things, do your research

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Stormy summer weather in northeast Ohio can damage a person's house and property, costing them thousands of dollars. But so can the scammers who are often waiting to take advantage of those in need.

The Better Business Bureau hasn't heard from many victims from recent storms yet, but it takes awhile before those calls start coming in.

Flooded basements, damaged roofs and fallen trees can be overwhelming for homeowners to clean up. Sue McConnell, president and CEO of the Cleveland Better Business Bureau, says you're at a bigger risk of falling victim when you're most stressed out.

"If something like this happens to your home, you're very vulnerable. It doesn't usually happen more than once. So you don't know how to act, what to do," McConnell said.

So what do you do if this happens to you? First, the BBB recommends doing your research to find repair companies you can trust.

"You want to check out companies carefully, check them at the BBB. Google the name of the company, the person who claims to be the owner. And see if you can find others who have warned about problems with the company," McConnell said.

Next, resist any high pressure sales -- there's no need to hire someone on the spot. The BBB also suggests getting at least three estimates before picking someone.

"You don't want to make a decision on your doorstep, and pick the company that knocks on your door and claims they can give you a free roof or get you a great deal," McDonnell said.

Residents should also be careful of door-to-door contractors, and should get a written contract before starting any repairs.

"These out of state contractors get in their trucks and drive off. So even if you have the work done, you may find two to three months from now that the roof starts leaking again, or the first storm there's a shingle in the front yard," McConnell said.

The Better Business Bureau says don't pay for a job in advance, and never sign a Power of Attorney form giving the contractor the right to settle an insurance claim.

McConnell recommends paying for repairs with a credit card if possible, because the customer may have additional protection if there's a problem.

And lastly, you should know your rights and responsibilities. You can check with your town to see what permits contractors need to work on your property. You can more learn about protecting yourself from storm scams from the BBB here.

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