CONSUMER CORNER: Severe weather events are on the rise, so be prepared!

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Provided by the Bucks County Department of Consumer Protection:

Government officials were called in to remove fallen limbs from the streets of Bristol Township in the days following the storm.
Photo credit: Tom Sofield / LevittownNow.com

What a summer we’ve had in Bucks County so far! Recent storms have wreaked havoc in Lower Bucks County, displacing hundreds of residents, and many remember the extreme weather events last season when we saw tornadoes in some parts of Bucks County. It is clear that severe weather events have increased in recent years, so we all need to be prepared. Many Bucks County residents have recently called the Consumer Protection Bureau to find a reputable damage repair company. We are happy to help, as we always strongly advise consumers to exercise caution when hiring a contractor. Below you will find tips and things that you should consider before signing a contract:

– Don’t be an easy target. Inquire about a contractor’s license and check it by phone at (888) 520-6680, or if you have internet access, check it on the Attorney General’s website. Hicsearch.attorneygeneral.gov Be careful when contractors knock on your door. We want the consumer to initiate the business transaction.

-It is required under Consumer protection law for do-it-yourselfers that contractors provide the consumer with a physical address and landline phone number, not just a PO box or mobile phone number.

– Written contracts for do-it-yourself work are required by law and must be signed by the consumer and contractor before the work begins. It should include the contractor’s HIC license number, the exact work to be done, a start and finish date for the project, and the total cost including a payment breakdown. Guarantees / warranties should also be put in writing; no verbal agreements. Make sure you get a full copy of whatever you sign right away for your records as this will be needed in case of a problem.

– By law, you only have to make an advance payment of one third, unless there are special orders.

-A contractor who offers to do a job cheaper when paid in cash is unlikely to pay taxes and almost certainly not to have insurance. If possible, avoid paying in cash. A check or credit card provides a paper trail when a contractor takes your money and never returns it.

-A contractor driving a car without a company logo could be another red flag.

– Work directly with your insurance company. If you are not satisfied with the service your insurance company provides, consider using a reputable public appraiser.

Remember that scammers usually present themselves as a kind, reliable person. One of the many complaints we have received about a scammer is that they were “so nice”. Make a business decision to the best of your knowledge; not an emotional one. As in any consumer business, be polite but firm. Residents can visit the Bucks County’s consumer protection website at www.buckscounty.gov/ConsumerProtection and then click our Consumer Advice section to download the Commissioning a building contractor Brochure for more information. You can also call 215-348-6060 and speak to a consumer detective. The investigator can review the consumer protection database to see if there have been any complaints against a company and review the registry.

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