Montana Insurance Commissioner Monica J. Lindeen is warning Missoula residents to be aware of “storm chasers,” or contractors who come to communities recovering from a serious storm and solicit repair work, sometimes doing shoddy work or committing insurance fraud.
Missoula and parts of Western Montana experienced a serious storm Aug. 10, generating hurricane-force winds that toppled large trees and knocked out power to some neighborhoods for days.
“Storms in Billings and Havre have taught us to always be on the lookout,” Lindeen said. “Most out-of-area repair crews are legitimate business people, but every time a Montana community experiences a major storm, we start getting calls from Montanans with questions, concerns – and sometimes reports of fraud.”
Some national roofing firms specialize in traveling roof repair after storms and are reputable businesses. However, Lindeen urged residents to be aware of companies that try to obscure their true headquarters location. Companies may claim to be “locally owned and operated.” They may have a local phone number and address, but are part of a national chain that quickly set up businesses in a community, only to leave when the work is done.
Check to make sure the company is licensed in Montana on the Secretary of State’s website.
Lindeen also said Montanans should be wary of any contractor who:
- Comes door to door and try to get you to sign something immediately.• Uses high-pressure sales tactics.
- Makes offers of a free roof or siding – or offers a way around paying your insurance deductible. Has out-of-state tags on vehicles or out-of-state driver’s licenses. You can and should ask to see a driver’s license to verify identity.
- Is unable to produce recent, local references or references from before the storm.
- Is unable to produce a local supplier reference. Always check the references from a potential contractor’s suppliers because if a supplier isn’t paid in a timely fashion by a contractor, they can legally place a lien on your home.
- Is unable to provide proof of contractor registration, liability insurance or worker’s compensation insurance. The Montana Department of Labor and Industry maintains a searchable database where you can look up the name of a contractor and check their registration.
- Asks to submit your insurance claim for you. Never allow a contractor to submit your insurance claim for you because your insurance company can only accept a claim from you.