Snow, melt, repeat: BBB warns of home winter damage and help scams

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INDIANAPOLIS — Hoosiers have seen unprecedented amounts of snow and ice this winter, and as it repeatedly melts, snows and freezes again, problems are popping up for homeowners left and right.

The Better Business Bureau serving Central Indiana said Monday it’s phones are ringing more than ever.

“This seems like the winter that’s never going to end,” said BBB President Tim Maniscalo. “We’ve gotten a lot of calls and many, many hits on our website. Many people are going to our site now looking for accredited businesses.”

Maniscalo usually tells others how to safely hire a contractor, but he’s having to take his own advice now.

“We had one of those ice dam situations with the roof,” he said.

The roof and several rooms in his home need repairs.

His story is one of thousands across the city, and the BBB wants to remind you of some tips for hiring a contractor to help with roofing and home repairs.

  • Research the company with BBB serving Central Indiana. View information about the company and any complaints at indy.bbb.org. Also, find a list of Accredited Businesses for general contractors here. You can also call 1-866-463-9222 for any questions you may have for BBB.
  • Solicit two or three bids for any work you plan on contracting. Do not automatically accept the lowest offer. Make sure all bids are based on the same set of specifications and quality of materials to be used.
  • Ask for local references, and if possible, inspect the finished projects.
  • Make sure the contractor is in compliance with all local licensing, bonding and insurance requirements, and that any necessary building permit is obtained. In certain counties, the company may require licensing. To verify if licensing is required and/or if the company is properly licensed outside of Marion County, contact the county government where the company is located. In Marion County, you are encouraged to contact the Department of Code Enforcement for details on licensing and permits at 317-327-8700.
  • Typically, a down payment of one-third of the total contract price is made, with additional payments made after completion of each phase of work; final payment should not be made until work is completed and you have inspected the work. If the contractor arranges financing for the work to be done, be sure you understand all aspects of the financial terms, especially if a second mortgage of your home is used as security for the work.
  • As with any contract, never sign a blank or partially-blank contract. Get all verbal promises in writing. If the project is to be completed by a certain date, make sure that is in the contract as well. You may want to inquire about inserting an arbitration clause into your contract in case of any dispute between you and your contractor.
  • Be informed about the Cooling-Off Rule and how it may apply to you if you make an in-home purchase of more than $25.

“It’s going to take a little bit of time, some phone calls, and you’re going to have to meet some contractors at your home to make certain they’re looking at it properly, but if you do that right, it’s going to pay off in the end,” said Maniscalo.

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