Better Business Bureau Warns of Spring Flooding Scams

Flooding in Chicago’s Albany Park neighborhood on April 18, 2013. (Center for Neighborhood Technology / Flickr)Flooding in Chicago’s Albany Park neighborhood on April 18, 2013. (Center for Neighborhood Technology / Flickr)

Following a night of heavy rain that continued over parts of Thursday morning, the Better Business Bureau is urging Chicago-area residents to be vigilant while addressing flooding problems as spring approaches.

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The combination of thawing snow cover, saturated soil, warmer temperatures and additional forecasted rain have made conditions nearly perfect to create flooding emergencies, according to the National Weather Service.

“These conditions are also perfect to bring out scammers looking to take advantage of the situation,” said Steve Bernas, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois, in a statement. “Because of the cost associated with eliminating the problems created when it floods – and the scammers – homeowners need to take steps to protect themselves.”

Those looking to hire a contractor to address flooding issues should take three important steps, according to the BBB:

  • Request bids from two or three different companies.
  • Do not automatically select the lowest bid.
  • Evaluate all bids based on the same criteria.

Consumers should also read all agreements, guarantees and instructions before signing any contracts.

“Make sure all oral promises are put in writing, and that you look out for vaguely worded provisions, exclusions or limitations which could pose a problem later,” Bernas said in a statement, noting that in Illinois, a contract is required for all repairs that cost more than $1,000.

According to the BBB, a down payment equaling one-third of the total contract price is typically made, with additional payments due after each phase of work is completed. A final payment should not be made until the job is done and consumers have inspected the work, the organization advises.

Prior to signing any home improvement contracts, consumers can use the BBB’s free online “Request A Quote” service to obtain estimates, proposals or basic information from BBB-accredited contractors.

To help prevent flooding-related damage in the first place, the BBB offers homeowners the following tips:

  • Install backflow valves or standpipes to prevent sewer lines from backing up.
  • Elevate your washer, dryer, water heater, oil tank, furnace and electrical wiring on concrete blocks.
  • Install a sump pump system if you have below-grade floors.
  • Store any irreplaceable family items and important documents somewhere other than the basement.
  • Install a flood-detection device in your basement that sounds an alarm or calls your phone if it senses water.

For more information, visit the BBB’s website.

Contact Alex Ruppenthal: @arupp [email protected] | (773) 509-5623

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