HARRISBURG, Pa. --, September 24, 1999 - Flood victims should take care when hiring contractors to repair damages from the recent flooding, federal and state officials warned today.
President Clinton declared seven Pennsylvania counties federal disaster areas on Sept. 18, following flooding caused by Hurricane Floyd. The declaration made residents of Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Lancaster, Montgomery, Philadelphia and York counties eligible for federal disaster assistance.
The president named Jack Schuback as federal coordinating officer, to head the federal side of the recovery operation. Gov. Tom Ridge appointed Bob Churchman, acting director of the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, to serve as state coordinating officer.
"Fraudulent contractors often come to storm-hit areas to take advantage of peoples' misfortunes," Schuback said. He urged residents to be especially careful of door-to-door solicitors who ask for large deposits or for entire payments in advance.
"Unfortunately, scam artists are ready to capitalize on the misfortune of others," Churchman added. He offered flood victims the following advice:
- Use reliable contractors and ask for references.
- Select contractors known in the community and recognized for their competence.
- Get written estimates from several contractors and compare prices before making a decision.
- Make sure contractors carry general liability insurance.
- Sign only contracts and work orders that thoroughly identify the work to be performed, estimate the cost of the work, and list any warranty information on the work.
- Ensure signed agreements include procedural forms for changes to original work orders.
- Get a complete contract.
- Pay by check. Do not make on-the-spot cash payments.
Consumers who have problems with a contractor or have been victims of fraud can initiate a complaint by calling the Pennsylvania State Attorney General's Office of Consumer Protection at 1-800-441-2555.