National Insurance Crime Bureau Answers Common Post-Disaster Questions
DES PLAINES, Ill., February 19, 2021 — The recent freeze in Texas is creating havoc for homeowners in the region resulting in broken pipes flooding homes. The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) cautions those needing to repair damage to take time to research contractors prior to hiring. The NICB offers answers to common post-disaster questions many will have following the severe Texas freeze.
“Recovering after a disaster is a daunting task, and our thoughts are with those who are dealing with the aftermath of this horrific weather event,” said NICB Chief Operating Officer Timothy R. Slater. “It’s further complicated by those individuals trying to exploit the situation at the expense of homeowners and insurers, resulting in higher insurance costs for everyone. Fraud claims account for approximately 10 percent of the total of paid claims.”
Q: How can I search for a licensed contractor?
A: Unfortunately, following disasters there are those trying to take advantage of storm victims and pass themselves off as a legitimate contractor. Doing a little research before hiring a contractor can reduce the chance of becoming a victim of fraud. There are several places to check if a contractor is licensed. First, check the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation. Additionally, it may be necessary to check with your local city to obtain information about a contractor.
Q: An individual claiming to be a contractor came by my house and said they could get my repairs completed. Is this a normal way for contractors to get business?
A: If you didn’t request it, reject it. If someone comes by your house claiming to be a contractor and solicits business, it could be a red flag. Sometimes people will claim to be contractors, offer services, receive payments, often in advance, and then take the money and leave. To avoid this potential scam, ask for their business card and state contractor license number. If you believe you have been approached by an unlicensed contractor, contact the National Insurance Crime Bureau by phone at 800-TEL-NICB (800-835-6422).
Q: In my search for a contractor, the contractor said I wouldn’t need to pay my homeowner insurance deductible and that they would take care of it instead. Is this one of those “too good to be true” instances?
A: In Texas, yes, this would be too good to be true. In fact, a contractor offering to waive a customer’s deductible is illegal in Texas. Should this happen, move along to find another contractor.
Q: I am feeling overwhelmed by the rebuilding process, where can I go for help?
A: The first available resource is your insurer. Your insurer will be able to assist you with understanding your policy and coverage, your search for a contractor and understanding a contract.
Q: I think I am ready to hire a contractor but just uncertain what to look for, what should I do?
A: Home repairs can be expensive. As such, be certain to arrange for a payment schedule as work is performed. Agree to start and end dates and make certain these are in the contract. Be certain all fields in a contract are filled in. Leaving something blank could allow a dishonest contractor fill-in an unnecessary repair. Lastly, verify the contractor is insured to do the work.
The rebuilding process will take time to complete and does require patience. Be certain to keep all paperwork from your insurer and your contractor. Routinely check on the progress of repairs and take photos throughout the duration of the project. Lastly, take notes of any communications you have by phone, email, or in person throughout the process and keep a list of names and titles for everyone with whom you speak.