(WALA) – Recent heavy rains washed out roads, damaged businesses and flooded homes across the Gulf Coast Area. As residents begin the task of cleaning up, the Better Business Bureau has offered tips to help avoid a second disaster after the storm.
Tips for flood damage clean-up:
- Call your insurance agent immediately to file a claim. Be sure to ask for specific procedures or paperwork needed to move forward with repairs.
- Take photos of any water saturation. An insurance adjuster may need to see what has been damaged in order to process your claim.
- Discard or clean all wet items within 48 hours. According to the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), as soon as the majority of water is drained away, all wet items should be cleaned and dried, or thrown away within 48 hours of flooding to prevent the growth of mold.
Following the storm, BBB also urges consumers and business owners to be careful of potential repair scams. “Storm chasers” often set up a temporary shop and skip town when the next disaster hits elsewhere, leaving homeowners with unfinished or unsatisfactory repairs.
Tips for hiring a repair contractor:
- Research trustworthy businesses. Deal only with licensed and insured contractors. Certain construction businesses are required to be licensed by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation. Find a BBB Accredited Business contractor through BBB|Northwest Florida’s Accredited Business Directory. If a business is BBB Accredited, it meets BBB’s Accreditation standards which include a commitment to make a good faith effort to resolve any consumer complaints.
- Get multiple bids. Get bids from at least three companies and ask for referrals. BBB’s Request a Quote service lets users get estimates from multiple BBB Accredited Businesses for free.
- Take your time signing a contract. Remember to ask if there is a charge for an estimate before allowing anyone into your home. Get a written estimate that includes any verbal promises the contractor made. Ask for explanations for price variations. Get a copy of the final, signed contract before the job begins.
- Avoid paying a large sum upfront. Resist dealing with any contractor who asks you to pay for the entire job upfront. A down payment is acceptable, but it should not be a significant amount of the total cost. Pay only by check or credit card – and pay the final amount only after the work is completed to your satisfaction and passes any required inspections.
- Beware of door-to-door solicitations. Severe storms bring fly-by-night contractors to the area. Often these contractors solicit work door-to-door, have no license or contact information and require high upfront fees before beginning any work. BBB recommends researching the business before signing a contract or paying a deposit.
To check the reliability of a business and find trustworthy businesses, log onto bbb.org.