Hurricane hangover: Protecting your home from shady contractors

CARROLLTON, Va. - Jewell looks at the damage of his Carrollton home after Hurricane Matthew, and is just thankful his whole family is still alive.

“The scariest thing was, [the tree that went through the window], that is like five feet from where my baby’s little Mama Roo is.”

Jewell’s home was damaged one day after Hurricane Matthew, after a soggy tree uprooted, split in half, taking other trees with it as it fell.

The cleanup is clearly a job for more than one person.

“The biggest thing was, where do you start? You’ve got these huge trees, and initially you think, ‘Okay, I’ve got a chainsaw. Let’s get out here and start cutting down.’ Then you see the trees, and they are laying on the house,” Jewell told News 3.

Like Jewell, many residents with storm damage face the same challenges, which is why numerous agencies are taking action to help residents with the next steps, and avoid shady contractors.

“They actually want to victimize you twice, you’ve been victimized by the storm, and if you’re not careful, you’ll be victimized by these contractors,” said Lt. Tommy Potter with the Isle of Wight County Sheriff’s Office (IOWCSO).

The IOWCSO is one of the groups offering advice.

“The first thing is, calm down,” said Potter. “Don’t feel like you are being rushed into making any decisions. A lot of these fraudulent con guys, that is how they get over on homeowners: they pressure them in to making last minute decisions.”

Other tips include: hiring a licensed contractor, asking for a business card and references, do not pay in cash – it makes it harder to track.

When you’re ready to hire a contractor, the City of Virginia Beach recommends hiring a licensed contractor. Homeowners can confirm licensure on the Virginia Department of Occupational

Homeowners can view past disciplinary actions on that same website.

John Huddleston, president of the Virginia Chapters of the International organization of special investigation units said to be careful of fly-by-night contractors after a severe weather event.

Reputable contractors will also give you a written contract, and will usually only expect a ten percent down payment upfront. If the job requires custom-made materials, a contractor could ask you for 30 percent upfront.

Additionally, if you are approached by someone after soliciting work and are weary of their intent officials encourage you to report them to your local law enforcement agencies.