Beware the storm chasers

Welcome to the maelstrom from the hailstorm. Local business leaders are warning area homeowners to be on guard as they hunt for contractors to repair damages caused by last week's wicked storm. After marble-sized hail pummeled the windows of hundreds of homes and blistering winds blew off roof shingles, some contractors may be trying to take advantage of desperate residents.
Shawn Foucher
May 20, 2010

 

Welcome to the maelstrom from the hailstorm.

Local business leaders are warning area homeowners to be on guard as they hunt for contractors to repair damages caused by last week's wicked storm. After marble-sized hail pummeled the windows of hundreds of homes and blistering winds blew off roof shingles, some contractors may be trying to take advantage of desperate residents.

"It's a scam, is what it is," said Bob Strayer, owner of Strayer Insurance. "There are contractors from all over the place, working the neighborhoods."

Local insurance companies and contractors have been flooded with calls about storm damage, but some out-of-town companies are approaching homeowners and making them uneasy.

Melissa, a Fallen Timber Drive resident who asked that her last name be withheld, said she was nearly hoodwinked by a so-called "storm chaser" this week.

The contractor offered to do a free inspection on her roof. He asked her to sign a waiver. Tucked within the pages of text was a stipulation: If Melissa chose another company after the out-of-towner inspected her roof, she would have to pay the out-of-towner 25 percent of the total repair cost.

Even if he didn't fix the roof, she'd still owe him the money.

"That immediately threw up red flags for me," she said. "And they said they'd do all the work in one day. There's no way you can do all that work in a day and do a quality job."

Strayer said homeowners should seek local contractors for their repairs.

Out-of-town repair crews can pack up and leave when they're done, washing their hands of faulty work.

"If you don't know the contractor, don't trust them," Strayer said.

Some out-of-town companies try to operate under the names of local companies, offering them a cut of any money they receive from insurance companies for repairs.

South Oldgate Road homeowner Ed Lewis, 62, said one unfamiliar company offered to fix storm damage to his house. He declined the offer but allowed the company to post a small sign in his front yard.

Lewis said he'll likely choose the company his adjuster recommends.

Sandusky contractor Nathan Crnjak, owner of North Coast Roofing, said he has plenty of work in the coming week, but he and other contractors want to warn residents of the potential risks of using out-of-town companies.

"This is to the point where other guys I compete against, we've actually teamed up on this," Crnjak said. "We'll just say, 'hey, if you don't hire me, hire someone local.'"