HELENA- A recent bout of hail storms – and the potential for more storms throughout the summer – has Montana’s attorney general warning residents to choose contractors carefully.
Severe thunderstorms, hail and flooding can all lead to property damage that may require a professional to help repair.
Attorney General Tim Fox says it’s important for homeowners to do their homework when looking for a contractor.
Fox says so-called ‘storm chasers’ will show up in Montana communities hit with storm damage and looking to take advantage of residents.
He says fraudsters often use pressure-tactics to take advantage of homeowners.
“Often times they’ll come through, these fly-by-night contractors will come through. They’ll say we just did a job down the road or down the street from you, we’ve got some leftover materials, we don’t have to mobilize and charge you for that, and they’ll try to make it sound like you’re going to get a deal,” says Fox. “They’re pressuring you because they say, they need to do it now. They need to get your permission to start work now. And that again is a red flag.”
Here’s the complete list of tips from the Attorney General and Office of Consumer Protection in regards to hiring a contractor:
Research similar projects. Learn the best way to complete it and how much it should cost.
Consider local, reputable contractors. Check their registration by calling the Department of Labor and Industry at 406-444-7734 or checking online at www.mtcontractor.com.
Get at least three written bids. A bid is not a contract; you’re not obligated to do business with someone just because you have their bid.
Call the Office of Consumer Protection at 406-444-4500 and ask if there are any complaints about the contractor you are considering.
Require proof that the contractor is insured and bonded. Otherwise, you may be liable for injuries to workers or others on your property. Ask to see the actual bond document and call the bonding company to confirm what it covers.
Don’t pay 100% up front. While a down payment may be necessary, payments should be distributed over the course of the project.
Insist upon a written contract that includes: Start and end date of the project, payment schedule, a list of materials (quality, grade and cost), any guarantees or warranties, and who will be responsible for necessary licenses and permits.
Get the start and end date in writing and signed by both parties. If no project dates are put in writing, your project could be put off indefinitely.
Ask if subcontractors will be used in any part of your project. If so, require proof they are registered, insured and bonded.
To report an attempted scam, call your local law enforcement agency or the Montana Department of Justice’s Office of Consumer Protection at (800) 481-6896 or (406) 444-4500, or visit dojmt.gov.
-Melissa Jensen reporting for MTN News