With the increasing impact of global climate change, there are more and more severe weather events damaging homes and properties in Canada. These include floods, windstorms, hail and wildfires. One of the most shocking weather events happened in 2011 when a F3 tornado hit Goderich, Ontario. Without warning, the beautiful summer day turned dangerous when a supercell storm hit the centre of town. The 1.5 km-wide tornado flattened the downtown plus another 20 km swath, leaving many injured.
While disasters like this usually bring out the best in people, with neighbours working together, sadly there are others who try to take advantage of the situation. "What was most shocking and devastating about the Goderich tornado was that it surprised everyone, including meteorologists," said Joe Daly of Desjardins General Insurance. "When something like this happens, your first impulse after checking to make sure everyone is safe is to start rebuilding. But this is also when you're the most vulnerable, leaving you open to unreliable contractors. Of course, not all contractors are scammers. But it's important to know the difference between the two and how to protect yourself."
First, be prepared:
1) Experts say that the first three days after an emergency are the most critical. So consider creating a 72-hour emergency kit. Typically it will include 3 days worth of water for each person in your family, imperishable food stuffs, candles, flashlight and batteries, and a first-aid kit.
2) Since your home is likely your most valuable asset, make sure you understand the contents of your insurance policy. It's always a good idea to review it at least once a year and to address any questions you may have with your insurance provider. Typically, your policy will cover a fire loss, as well as damage caused by lightning, windstorms, hailstorms and even tornados. Keep in mind that standard homeowners' policies in Canada exclude overland flood damage. However, they do cover other kinds of water damage, like rain coming through a wind-damaged roof. Speak to your provider about your coverage and about possibly purchasing additional coverage.
Second, know the tell-tale signs to avoid a potential contractor scam:
1) Deposit and Dash: The contractor will have you pay a large deposit to start the work but will then disappear. Protect yourself by insisting on paying a small amount to start with the balance paid upon satisfactory completion of the work. And make sure you get all of this in writing.
2) Substandard Repairs: These types of contractors will charge you a large amount to fix the problem, but they will cut corners leaving you vulnerable for more serious damage. Make sure you do a proper inspection before paying the final bill.
3) Making matters worse: During an inspection, some discreditable contractors will create larger damage in order to charge you a bigger fee. This includes using a teaspoon, small rocks or hammers to fabricate damage on roof shingles. Be careful of any company that uses door-to-door salespeople or that drop off flyers. The best way to protect yourself is by contacting your insurance company before authorizing any work.
For more tips about emergency preparedness and protecting yourself against contractor scams, speak to your insurance provider. Or for immediate answers, visit Desjardins General Insurance at www.desjardinsgeneralinsurance.com.