Buyer Beware

Beware Hail Damage Storm ChasersWhen it comes to repairing hail damage on your home, we understand that you want it done and you want it done now.  However, there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about getting those repairs completed.  Here is something you should be aware of before deciding who to use for those repairs.

What and Who are “Storm Chasers”?  Storm chasers are typically companies that follow severe weather from town to town, selling home repairs from roofing to siding to raingutters that have been damaged from severe weather. They try to collect insurance claim checks in payment for their services, complete the work (usually unprofessionally and with major problems) before moving on to the next storm damaged town.  They generally go door-to-door and can advertise themselves as insurance recovery experts or specialists in insurance restoration.

Why are storm chasers bad? The first tactic a storm chaser uses is to ask the homeowner to sign a contract allowing their company to negotiate with homeowner’s insurance company.  By signing these documents, homeowners may be waiving their right to any decision-making regarding their repairs. This could result in loss of control over the insurance settlement along with the entire payment for those repairs. The materials used could be entirely up to the storm chaser, leaving room for the storm chaser to cut corners in order to make more money by using cheaper products. Most importantly, if any of the workmanship is faulty and you need it repaired, good luck, as most storm chasers leave the area as soon as the storm “plays out.” These companies are generally gone long before warranty issues arise and they’re certainly not going to return from Utah or Colorado to repair a problem with their work. Some storm chasers are very savvy and have been known to lease local company names to appear to be local. This results in you, the homeowner, unknowingly hiring an out of state company to do the repairs and once those repairs are done, that company goes away leaving the local company to manage all of the aftermath of poor repairs and products. Often resulting in the local company going out of business and leaving you helpless.

How to spot a storm chaser

  • Come door to door and try to get you to sign something immediately
  • Use high pressure sales tactics
  • Offer a way around paying a deductible (this is insurance fraud!) by giving you a “free roof”,  “free siding” or maybe a “20% discount”
  • Have out-of-state license plates (one way to check is to verify a drivers license – yes, ask to see it!)
  • Don’t have local references that they’ve worked on before the storm
  • Don’t have local supplierBeware Hail Damage Storm Chaserss that you can call and verify their company’s qualifications
  • Can’t produce a business license, up to date certificate of insurance, or a registration certificate with the State of Montana
  • Are unlisted, have unsatisfactory ratings or have complaints filed against them with the Better Business Bureau. You can look them up here.

We’re not the only one voicing our concerns, Montana Insurance Commissioner Monica J. Lindeen warned Billings and southeastern Montana residents on Friday May 23, 2014 that these companies are real, they are out there and they will find you if you have hail damage from a severe storm!

Of course, not all companies that come to work in a storm damaged town are the stereotypical “storm chasers”.  We understand that it would be nearly impossible for the local contractors in your area to be able to get to all of the work that a large storm causes. We’re just reminding you to do your due diligence and double check the  backgrounds, history and previous customer lists of any company you may decide to hire.

We’d also like to ask you to call a local contractor first before signing up with a company from out of town.

Here are several ways to find some of us trusted local contractors.

  • Ask a friend or neighbor if they’ve had a good experience with a local contractor.
  • Call your insurance agent.  Insurance companies will have a list of preferred contractors you can call.
  • Ask other people in the trades: a plumber you love may rave about someone he knows does quality work.
  • Local realtors often times have connections to the local contractors that they know have great reputations.
  • The local phone book will have contractors listed that have been in the area longer than any of the “storm chasers”.
  • Google search…yes, it will work to find local contractors and almost all of the other information you’ll want to know.
  • Ask around at your local hardware store.  Not the big box store, but the hometown friendly hardware store. They’ll know someone you can call.