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Fire Damage Restoration: Use the Attorney General to Avoid a Costly Mistake

Every so often, fire damage restoration contractors can leave customers in a bind. It’s important as a homeowner is to protect yourself against fraudulent contractors. That means research is critical to determine which companies will work on your behalf and which are just looking for an easy buck without finishing the work.

In Lancaster County, York County and South Central, Pennsylvania homeowners might suspect that “chasing,” is one way to determine if a company is legitimate or not. That’s just not so.

Chasing is where fire damage restoration professions sit by a scanner and listen for a fire. Then a representative shows up at the site and pushes to get you to use them as the restorer. Both illegitimate and legitimate companies engage in this practice. Although this door-to-door, high-pressured sales tactic is distasteful, it doesn’t mean a company isn’t legit.

How can you be sure? There are four simple ways.

Check Fire Damage Restoration Companies Through the Office of the Attorney General

First, the Attorney General issues a Registered Contractor page to make sure the company you choose is not a fly-by-night operation.

To verify, type in the business name and then click “Find a Specific Contractor.”

You’ll notice that the HIC# is listed. That’s the contractor’s number. It means that the company is licensed to do home improvement in Pennsylvania. Fire victims should always ask to see contractor number before a company begins working. It is a safeguard and a best practice. Asking to see a contractor’s number will give homeowners a high level of trust that the company they’ve picked has been authorized to do work in that area.

According to the Attorney General’s office, “The Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act (HICPA) requires all contractors who perform $5,000 or more in home improvements in a year to register with the Office of Attorney General.”

However, just because the company name shows up in the listing, doesn’t mean the Office of the Attorney General endorses their work. It simply means the company is listed and has a valid contractor’s number.

Check Fire Damage Restoration Companies Through the Better Business Bureau

Second, you may want to verify if the restoration company is listed with the Better Business Bureau.

Type the name of the company into the registry.  Click “search” to view the results.

The BBB will issue a rating based on 13 factors including any business complaint history, the type of business listed, how long the company has been in operation, business practices, honoring the BBB’s commitments, and advertising issues. Complaints are giving the biggest weight in determining the company’s grade which means the fewer complaints a company receives the more likely they are to be credible.

Fire Chiefs and Police Know Which Fire Damage Restoration Companies are Legit

Third, contact the fire chief at your local fire department. Ask for a direct reference for companies they recommend. They know which companies are legitimate because they will have worked together for decades. Collectively they rebuild burnt dreams. Fire chiefs will often say they feel as though they’re working among friends when they’re working with specific companies. They’ll likely refer their friends to you.

Fourth, ask a police officer who they would recommend in the situation. They’ll likely share the same sentiment as the fire chief. Police officers are to be absolutely trusted in this time of crisis.

Finally, ask to see references or a portfolio of previously completed work before you allow anyone to begin working on your burnt home. Most likely the person coming to board up your home won’t have a portfolio with them so it is best to ask to see it and to call references before they begin working. You may be able to see the portfolio and call references while police and firemen are still on the scene.