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From time to time, it’s good to take a look at trends and happenings around the country.  This week, we’ll take a look at two potential rip-offs that might serve as a caution to all of us.

Recent tornados and hail storms around the country, and particularly in the South, have left property damage and other mayhem in their paths.  One of the first things we see after a storm passes through are blue tarps and other temporary covers being applied to roofs all over the area.  It doesn’t take very long for repairman, some very reputable and some less so, to go knocking on doors and offering to begin the repairs almost immediately.  The question is, how can you tell a reputable and reliable contractor from a fraudulent one?

For starters, the unscrupulous contractor is likely to begin his conversation by talking about a “free roof.”  In many parts of the country, roofers are approaching homeowner stating that there is hail damage from a recent storm.   They claim that their company will waive the cost of the deductible the homeowner will pay his or her insurance company. That means the individual gets a “free roof.”

Remember the old saying “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is?” Just because a roofer or building contractor says there is damage is no proof at all.  In fact, it will be up to your insurance company adjuster to determine if there is damage at all, if that damage is caused by a severe enough hail storm, or if there is damage that is “manufactured” through fraudulent means. There’s no such thing as a “free roof.”

 Homeowners insurance is not intended to simply provide a new roof without proof of damage. The homeowner obtains a policy to insure against the risk of damage from the weather, fire or other calamities as described in the insurance policy. It is the homeowner’s responsibility to replace the roof that has worn out over a period of years through natural wear and tear.

A more recent scam, that will likely soon find its way into Middle Tennessee, involves air duct cleaning.  Fly-by-night companies will offer to clean your home’s air ducts at a bargain rate (often for under $30) and provide a free mold test.  In cases reported in Ohio and other states, the bill escalates to hundreds of dollars, with little proof of any legitimate service being performed.  The mold test and related remedies are a sham designed to bilk the unsuspecting homeowner of their cash.

So what are the warning signs that you should look for in these or similar situations?  Be cautious of home-service contractors who:

1. Come to your home unsolicited.

2. Advertise extraordinarily low rates.

3. Raise the price dramatically from the one advertised.

4. Insist on upfront payments.

5. Don’t provide a written copy of the contract in advance.

6. Refuse to provide proper identification and proof of insurance or licensing if required.

What’s the best way to protect your home and finances from contractors that intend to rip you off?  Be sure that you check out their references.  Better yet, get a referral from someone you really trust.
Posted 11:18 AM  View Comments

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