Hail hits Spring Grove on Sept. 4
BBB warns residents to use caution when hiring contractors to perform repairs
Tuesday, September 11, 2012 6:30 AM
Storms developed rapidly on the afternoon of Tuesday, Sept. 4 across parts of western Wisconsin and southeast Minnesota.
The rain came down in sheets while hail of various sizes came down on Sept. 4 around 6:15 p.m. On the southeast side of town the hail began as small pea size but continued to grow until stones measuring 2-1/2” fell from the sky. The hail stones varied in shape, some being flat and more saucer-like while others were round with bumps that were created perhaps from smaller stones freezing to it. Damage varied in town with some neighbors having serious damage to roofs, siding and automobiles, while others got by almost unscathed.
The storm produced sporadic large hail as they continued to grow, expand in coverage area, and moved into northeast Iowa and southwest Wisconsin, the National Weather Service (NWS) noted.
Hail over 2 inches in diameter was reported with stronger storms along with localized wind gusts ranging from 60 to 75 mph in the Spring Grove area.
Heavy rain was also reported but flooding was minimal. Rainfall amounts ranged from only an inch in some areas to as much as 3-4 inches.
BBB provides tips to storm damage victims
The Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) is offering guidance to residents in southeast Minnesota who suffered property damage in recent storms, and reminds people to take precautions when cleaning up and making repair decisions. Though most contractors have your best interests in mind, there are those few that are only interested in making a fast dollar.
To avoid those bad actors, the BBB provides the following tips to homeowners who have experienced property damage:
Contact your insurance company immediately to inquire about policy coverage and specific filing requirements.
Document the damage to your property (and autos); take pictures or video if possible.
Do not make any permanent repairs until you get approval from your insurance company.
Make any minor repairs to limit further damage to the home. You may be liable for damage that occurs after the storm has passed, so make temporary repairs and be sure to save all of your receipts.
Get references from friends and relatives and contact the Better Business Bureau to obtain free business reviews on any company you are considering hiring. Visit www.bbb.org or call toll-free at 1-800-646-6222.
Shop around and get more than one estimate.
Ask all companies for proof of liability and workers compensation insurance as well as a license to do work in Minnesota. A contractor should be responsible for obtaining all necessary permits, not you.
Understand the difference between warranties and guarantees. The manufacturer warranties their products and contractors have warranties on service. Contractors may also offer customer service guarantees. Get copies of any/all warranties and guarantees.
Refrain from filing an insurance claim on something that you do not intend to fix. There could be repercussions from your insurance company when you do not make repairs you are being compensated for.
Keep in mind that if you hold a mortgage on your home, your mortgage company may have a vested interest in you making the repairs and most will mandate you to make the repairs.
Most checks from insurance come to the consumer with both the consumer's name and the mortgage company's name. Both need to sign off on the check.
Some companies list bids on their own contract to do service work on your home/property and some do not (basing their pricing on "insurance allowance"). Both are acceptable methods of conducting business.
Prepare a written contract agreement with anyone you hire. It should specify the work to be done, the materials to be used, and the price breakdown for both labor and materials.
Be aware that anything you sign is a contract. Read carefully and avoid signing an "estimate" or "authorization" form before you have actually decided to hire a particular contractor. Pay special attention to any details in bold, that are underlined or that you need to initial.
Be sure the name, address, license number and phone number of the contractor appear on all invoices and contracts.
Any promises made orally should be written into the contract, including warranties on materials or labor.
Never pay in full for all repairs in advance, and do not pay cash.
Review all documentation before signing on the dotted line and before making any payment. Be sure it specifies the schedule for releasing payments to the contractor. Ask for a start and end date for the work to be done.
Although you may be anxious to get things back to normal, avoid letting your emotions get the better of you. Don't be pressured into making an immediate decision with a long-term impact. Storm victims should never feel forced to make a hasty decision or to choose an unknown contractor.
Cooling-off rule may apply
The BBB explains that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has a three-day cooling-off rule, which can be read in its entirety at http://ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/products/pro03.shtm.
People with storm damage need to be careful when it comes to the cooling-off rule. Some types of sales cannot be canceled even if they do occur in locations normally covered by the rule. The Cooling-Off Rule does not cover sales that:
are under $25;
are for goods or services not primarily intended for personal, family or household purposes. (The rule applies to courses of instruction or training.);
are made entirely by mail or telephone;
are the result of prior negotiations at the seller's permanent business location where the goods are sold regularly;
are needed to meet an emergency. Suppose insects suddenly appear in your home, and you waive your right to cancel;
are made as part of your request for the seller to do repairs or maintenance on your personal property (purchases made beyond the maintenance or repair request are covered).
Many contractors/storm chasers offer a three-day cancellation period in their contracts. So consumers just need to be looking for that and make sure they're clear on the timeframe they have to cancel.