Storm chasers are companies that follow severe weather from area to area, completing home repairs (generally roofs and siding) that are damaged by hail and wind. They collect homeowners’ insurance claim checks in payment for their services, complete the work (often shoddily) before moving on to the next storm ravaged area.
“Many of the fly-by-night companies bring in 20-30 salesmen and start knocking on doors right after a storm hits. Experts say storm chasers call this method “low-hanging fruit” because the homeowners are panicking and they’re willing to sign with anybody that’s nice to them that says they could get them a free roof.”
Good tip to remember: Any reputable company most likely has so many people calling, asking for estimates in the wake of this weekend’s storms, that they don’t have time to send salesmen out to canvass neighborhoods.
Here in Chicago, we are prone to hailstorms, and storm chasers generally quickly follow any such event. They generally go door-to-door in storm damaged areas, and may advertise themselves as insurance recovery experts or specialists in insurance restoration. (The term “Storm Chaser” can also be used to describe a person who follows storms in order to research, photograph, or simply experience a weather phenomenon. This type of storm chaser is entirely different and is not of any concern to a homeowner!)
The first step of a storm chaser is to ask the homeowner to sign a contract allowing their company to negotiate with homeowner’s insurance company. By signing these documents, homeowners may be waiving their right to any decision making regarding their repairs or replacement. They also lose control over the insurance settlement, and the entire check of the payment may legally need to be signed over to the storm chaser- regardless of the quality or quantity of work completed. The homeowner may lose some control over materials used, leaving the storm chaser free to cut corners in order to increase their profit.
Most importantly, warranty repairs can be very difficult to obtain as most storm chasers leave the area as soon as the storm “plays out.” These companies are generally gone long before warranty issues arise. The company is certainly not going to return from Florida or Ohio to repair a problem with their work. To make matters even more difficult, some storm chasers lease local company names so the appear to be local. Once they complete their work in the area, they leave. The local company is then responsible for the warranty work. Of course, the volume of warranty work is often so great the local company ends up out of business, leaving the homeowner with problems.
Storm chasers are also very damaging to the local economy. They deprive local contractors of business and decrease the number of resources you have when your roof suddenly springs a leak. By employing a local contractor to complete your repairs, you are helping to employee local Chicagoland workers.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is urging residents with damaged homes and businesses to be wary of scam artists looking to profit from the weather over the weekend. Madigan suggests avoiding quick decisions, dealing only with licensed contractors and insisting on a written contract. She advises consumers to never make a full payment until work is done to their satisfaction. Consumers have the right to cancel a contract within three business days if they signed it based on the contractor’s visit to their home.