Flood damage: Here are 7 ways property owners can protect themselves against dishonest contractors

The remnants of Hurricane Ida rained all over the midstate. And as a result of the storm, some midstate homes have flood damage.

Some homeowners may never have had to repair property damage due to flooding. So property owners should be wary and vigilant when hiring a contractor.

The Pennsylvania Department of Insurance has provided tips for homeowners to protect themselves.

“Natural disasters can be a magnet for dishonest contractors,” the department said. “Be wary of anyone who knocks at your door and offers (or solicits) to do your home repairs.”

The department recommends taking these steps when dealing with professionals about flood damage:

  • If an individual presents himself as a public adjuster, ask for his licensing information. A public adjuster is a professional claims handler, licensed and regulated by the state. A public adjuster is employed by the policyholder to assist with the claims process.
  • You can verify a licensed public adjuster by visiting www.insurance.pa.gov. Click on “Consumers” on the top bar and select “Find Insurance Professional.” If you suspect anyone or any entity is operating as a public adjuster without a license, you may report it by calling the Insurance Department’s Anti-Fraud Compliance Division at 717-705-4199.
  • All home improvement contractors that do more than $5,000 of business per year in Pennsylvania must register with the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. Ask the contractor for their home improvement contractor number and verify registration by calling the Attorney General’s Home Improvement Registration department at 888-520-6680. Many municipalities also require that skilled tradesmen, like electricians and plumbers, be licensed in addition to being registered.
  • Investigate any firm you are thinking of hiring and get more than one estimate for your repairs. Check references and registration and get everything in writing including the total cost for repairs, the work to be completed, the timetable for completion and guarantees the contractor offers.
  • Don’t sign paperwork with sections left blank. Someone can fill in information after you sign the paperwork.
  • Don’t pay a contractor in full or sign that the work is complete until the work is actually completed.
  • Be cautious of contractors with work vans/trucks that have out-of-state license plates. Be wary of a lack signs or insignias identifying the company name.

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