They usually travel to devastated communities, offering their services door-to-door.
If your home has been damaged by Hurricane Sandy, there are ways to avoid getting taken by unscrupulous contractors.
Following a major disaster, persons known as "gypsies" or "storm chasers" will go door-to-door in communities where homes have been damaged, and offer their services. They may say they have leftover material from a "job down the road" and are willing to work on your home. These individuals don't have a permanent location or place of business, and could say that your house is unsafe.
The President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Greater Maryland, Angie Barnett, says they often will ask for money upfront, and usually do shoddy work, or no work at all. Then they disappear, and you can't find them. "They collect as much as they can, and then they're off," she says. "And by being off, I mean they are out of state, on the next disaster."
The BBB advises consumers not to let their emotions get the better of them when it comes to repairing their home following a disaster. Citizens should only use legitimate contractors, and get three or more estimates before work begins. "Those estimates need to include a breakdown of both the materials to be used and the labor so you know a bottom line price," she says.
No more than one-third of the cost should be offered as a down payment before the work begins, Barnett says.
The BBB also says be sure the contractor is licensed by the Maryland Home Improvement Commission. "This is a competency exam as to their knowledge of doing home repairs," says Barnett. A MHIC license also means the contractor has a good credit rating, and that company is bonded and insured in case a worker is injured on the job. Barnett says a "gypsy," "storm chaser" or other unscrupulous contractor may not be bonded, and you'd be liable if someone is injured while working on your home.
If you see anyone in your neighborhood who may be a "gypsy" or a "storm chaser," contact your local police. Barnett says these individuals may need a solicitation permit if they do door-to-door sales.