BBBs warn tornado victims of storm chasers


DAYTON — The early spring tornadoes have wreaked havoc in many Ohio communities. Unfortunately, shady contractors follow these storms taking advantage of storm victims. Ohio BBBs warn homeowners to beware of “storm chasers” and out-of-town contractors soliciting business. Although not all storm chasers are scammers, they may lack the proper licensing in your area, offer quick fixes or make big promises they can’t deliver.

Lane Montz, Better Business Bureau president and CEO serving Toledo and the surrounding areas, shares, “Out-of-state contractors can be problematic after storms. While some are credible and fill a need when storms overwhelm local contractors, many others use high-pressure sales tactics, charge predatory prices and deliver shoddy work backed up only by ‘taillight warranties’ – when their taillights are gone, the warranties are effectively over. Even the good ones might not be around to back up their work like local restoration contractors – because they’re off chasing the next storm.”

People are also often quick to hire tree service companies to help with downed trees after storms. But, BBB has seen many problems with shady tree service companies. Some get the cash up front for the job and never come back to do the work. Some cut trees down, but never return to take care of the logs or stumps. Others quote one price and shortly after starting the job they come up with reasons why the price needs to increase. Montz also warns of reports about storm-chasing tree service companies from Florida charging twenty thousand ($20,000) or more to cut up just a single fallen tree – and then liening the customer’s property when insurance doesn’t pay up.

John North, president and CEO of BBB serving Dayton and the Miami Valley, says, “There are some great tree service companies that will meet or exceed your expectations. But, unfortunately, the bad guys in this industry make it difficult for the good guys to do business. They shed a negative light on the entire industry. You should be wary if the tree service company has no printed materials, letterhead or bid forms, is unwilling to provide credentials or proper certifications and uses scare tactics or pressures you to make an immediate decision.”

The BBB offers the following tips to help storm victims hire trustworthy contractors…

Contact your insurance company. Ask about your policy coverage and specific filing requirements. Save all receipts, including those for food, temporary lodging or other expenses that may be covered under your policy. Your insurance company may also have recommended contractors.

Do your research. Find businesses you can trust on Verify the contractor is registered to do business in Ohio. Visit and look under business services. Make sure contractors are licensed, bonded and insured as appropriate. Get references from friends and relatives.

· Get and compare multiple written estimates based on the same specifications. Make sure the contractors create itemized estimates so you can compare cost, efficiency and warranties.

Resist high-pressure sales. Some storm chasers use tactics such as the “good deal” you’ll get only if you hire the contractor on the spot. Be proactive in selecting a contractor and not reactive to sales calls on the phone or door-to-door pitches. Disaster victims should never feel forced to make a hasty decision or to choose an unknown contractor.

Be especially careful of door-to-door contractors. Many municipalities require a solicitation permit if salespeople go door-to-door. Ask for identification. Check the vehicle for a business name, phone number and Ohio license plates.

Don’t sign over insurance checks to contractors. Get an invoice from the contractor and pay them directly (preferably with a credit card, which offers additional fraud protection over other forms of payment). Don’t sign any documents that give the contractor rights to your insurance claims. If you have questions, contact your insurance company or agent.

Be wary regarding places you can’t see. While most contractors abide by the law, be careful allowing someone you don’t know to inspect your roof and other areas of your house. An unethical contractor may create damage to get work. The same goes for attics, crawl spaces, ducts and other places you cannot easily access or see for yourself.

· Get everything in writing. Make sure that the full scope of the work is explained in the contract including payment terms, material and labor prices, cleanup and disposal of waste. All verbal agreements need to be included, as well as warranties and guarantees.

BBB also warns contractors to beware of storm chasers who offer to pay local construction companies substantial amounts of money to use the business’ established name, reputation and phone. They masquerade as a local business, collect the insurance money and then move on, leaving the real business to deal with unsatisfied customers due to bad workmanship, unfinished work or unfulfilled warranties.

Judy Dollison, president of BBB serving Central Ohio, says, “Victims of severe storm damage should take their time and carefully choose contractors they hire to make repairs. Start with companies you can trust by going to, which is also a great overall resource for tornado victims.”

In fact, the BBB has a dedicated web page for natural disasters. can help individuals, businesses and nonprofits recover from severe storms and other disasters. It shares how to prepare for common severe weather, how to avoid scams after a natural disaster, as well as national and local disaster relief resources.

About Your BBB

The Better Business Bureau has empowered people to find businesses, brands and charities they can trust for over 110 years. In 2022, people turned to BBB more than 250 million times for BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.3 million businesses and Charity Reports on about 12,000 charities, all available for free at Local, independent BBBs can be found across the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

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