Recent floods could be dangerous to consumers

Staff Report

ROCKFORD — A Rising rivers and runoff from melting snow create serious flooding issues for northern Illinois residents; the Better Business Bureau advises consumers to take steps to be prepared to handle dangerous situations.

According to the National Weather Service, a combination of significant snow cover, saturated soil, warmer weather, and the predicted rains; have made conditions are nearly perfect to create flooding emergencies.

“These conditions are also perfect to bring out scammers looking to take advantage of the situation,” said, Dennis Horton, director of the Rockford Regional Office of the Better Business Bureau. “Because of the cost associated with eliminating the problems created when it floods; and the scammers, homeowners need to take steps to protect themselves.”

Some steps to ensure that protection include installing backflow valves or standpipes to prevent sewer lines from backing up and placing washers, dryers, water heaters, oil tanks, furnaces and electrical wiring on concrete blocks. If those unit cannot be raised, thy can be protected with a floodwall or shield.

Sump pump systems, landscaping with plants and vegetation and flood-detection devices are also ways to reduce flooding. Irreplaceable family items and important documents should be stored somewhere other than the basement.

To deal with flooding problems, and to avoid being taken advantage of by unreliable contractors or scammers, the BBB says consumers should always request bids from two or three companies and make sure bids are all based on the same criteria. The lowest bid is not always the best bid, Horton said.

When reviewing bids and contracts, agreements, guarantees and instructions should be read carefully. The Better Business Bureau cautions consumers to be aware of high-pressure sales tactics and refrain from signing any agreement until it is read and understood thoroughly.

Horton says consumers should never sign a blank or partially blank contract.

“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,” he said. “In Illinois a contract is required for all repairs totaling more than one thousand dollars”.

Typically, a down payment of one-third the total contract price is made with additional payments due after completion of each phase of work. Final payment should not be made until the job is completed and you have inspected the work.

Before signing any home-improvement contract the BBB urges consumers to research the company and obtain a quote from a BBB-accredited contractors using the organization’s Request A Quote  feature.

Homeowners should always determine whether a contractors is insured and whether a permit is required by local units of government before work is performed.

BBB also makes these recommendations to property owners looking to obtain flood insurance:

  • Call your insurance agent or company to inquire about the availability of flood insurance in the area. Keep in mind that flood insurance becomes generally does not become effective until 30 days after it is purchased.
  • Standard flood coverage does not typically cover damage resulting from sewer backups or sump pump issues. Ask your insurance agent or company if such additional coverage is appropriate to add to your policy.
  • Homeowners should take an inventory of their personal property and make photocopies of their insurance policies, keeping all such important papers in a secure location away from home. Taking pictures of various rooms and their contents is also a great way to document the contents. R.
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