When I had first heard the issue about “Storm Chasers” at an insurance meeting, I thought they were talking about the increased liability they faced when people drove their trucks or cars close to tornadoes to get video coverage of the impending disasters. What they were actually talking about are the people who follow these storms after they hit an area. An area can be inundated almost immediately after a hail or wind storm with “contractors” looking to get signed contracts to do storm damage repairs. Once they have completed their work, they then set their sights on to the next storm damaged area.
One of the state representatives that chair the committee looking into this issue said that his property experienced a hail storm, and within a half hour he had contractors knocking on his door wanting to make estimates on the damage. Normally, this kind of customer service would be considered great and rewarded, but these contractors tend to be rather unscrupulous. Many times the contractors will go from home to home, enter the property without permission, climb onto their roofs, generate estimates, and leave them for the homeowners. The contractors will attempt to get the owners to sign contracts to repair what is damaged after the homeowners have arrived
home from work.
The shady contractors will entice the homeowner to sign by telling them that they, the contractor, will pay or rebate the deductible as an incentive to sign the contract. The contractor can do this by overestimating the damage that occurred. The homeowner may think he is getting a great deal because he can get his home fixed and not have to pay a deductible but he will soon find out differently.
The homeowner submits the claim to the insurance company. The owners often discover that the damages are only partially covered under their policy, damage estimates were in excess of what is considered reasonable, or the damages are not even covered under their policy. The homeowner is obligated to pay the contractor, whatever the case might be, since they have signed a binding contract. The “too good to be true offer” is now
too good to be true.
For example, let’s say a hail storm hits your house at 2pm on a Wednesday in May. The storm chaser arrives at your house at 3pm. He climbs onto your roof, estimates the damages, and leaves it on your porch so you see it when you arrive home from work. You discover it will cost $15,000 to repair and if you sign the contract today, he will pay for your deductible too! Everything seems legitimate, so you sign the contract. You then call your insurance agent and he/she comes out to estimate damages. The estimate to repair the roof is $9,000 and now you are on the hook for the $6,000 difference.
How do you prevent this from happening to you? After storm damage, call your insurance agent first. Get a list of approved local contractors from them and work with your insurance company before the repairs begin. Avoid any “too good to be true” offers or run it by your insurance agent before you accept. Local contractors have a strong incentive to do quality work since they live in your community. These storm chasers do not have these same incentives since their addresses are usually P.O. Boxes and who knows in what state they reside . Hopefully, we have calm days ahead and we can avoid this whole situation in the upcoming spring and summer seasons.