Wednesday, February 11th, 2015 by Audrey Simmons
(Image via: http://bit.ly/1yhT9j1)
If you experience a house fire, you will most likely be asking yourself, “Where do I go from here?” One surprising question that may arise during a time like this is, “Where did all these people come from?” If you notice men or women with clipboards at your home, sometimes arriving even before the smoke has cleared, you are encountering what some refer to as “fire chasers”. These are disaster restoration workers who are there to offer their services with contracts and pens in hand.
Unfortunately, not all companies abide by the same code of ethics. These “fire chasers” use misrepresentation, often claiming they were sent by the fire department or even the city or local municipality. They may promise you thousands of dollars more than your insurance company, claim to waive your deductibles, and even offer you cash on the side.
Simply put, these are salespeople who have learned of your house fire via listening in on police scanners. They are at your home to capitalize on your tragedy by approaching you in the midst of your shock, fear, and grief, when you are most vulnerable. They may use aggressive sales tactics and their services may result in shoddy or unfinished work.
Fortunately, you can easily protect yourself against becoming a victim of these unethical business practices! First thing to remember is that you should never give any personal information or sign anything during this time. As the insurance policy holder, you get to choose who you work with, and it may not necessarily be the first person who shows up at your house.
Even in the face of catastrophe, you first need to step back and take a breath. You should not feel pressured to make decisions because of this overwhelming situation.
Mike Cote from Baxter Restoration tells us that “the most common mistake people make when faced with catastrophe is making a commitment while in a state of panic.”
Contact your insurance company, as they will recommend a legitimate, licensed restoration company to you. Also, consider doing some research in order to find a restoration company that is the best fit for you. Before making a decision, always look up the company’s name and spend some time on their professional website. This is where you should find pictures of the business and a physical address. You will also find their licenses and certifications here, as well as whether they are insured and bonded. If they cannot provide you with this information, you should consider using someone who holds proper credentials.
An insurance company may not cover the work if an unlicensed company performs the work. If their professional website does not contain customer reviews, search websites such as the Better Business Bureau and Facebook to find them. Customer reviews is a great way to determine whether or not you are dealing with a legitimate business, and will let you know if others have been satisfied with their services.
It is important that you check if the company has any lawsuits filed against them. Happening more frequently than one might think, businesses will shut down due to lawsuits and excessive negative reviews, then they reopen under a new name. If you are having trouble finding customer reviews, or anything other than a basic website containing very limited information, this may be because the company has recently changed their name in an attempt to start over.
If you continue to have concerns about a particular company or have specific questions, you should contact your insurance company. They will be able to easily answer your questions because they know your policy and will abide by the law. Last but not least, no matter whom you decide to choose, make sure you read all paperwork carefully throughout the entire process.
Check to see if there is an option to cancel services in addition to company warranties.
Avoid “fire chasers” and find the best company for you by following these steps:
1. Do not give personal information or sign anything until you have done your research
2. Contact you insurance company
3. Look up the restoration company’s name and browse their professional website
4. Check for licenses and certifications and make sure the company is bonded and insured
5. Read customer reviews from multiple websites
6. See if there are any lawsuits against the company
7. Read all paperwork carefully
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