Consumer Bob helps to save you money and time

Tips for Rebuilding After the Wildfires

Helping victims not be burned twice

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The next step for many San Diegans who’ve experienced damage from the May wildfires is rebuilding. But that can be its own nightmare, made worse by scammers looking to con victims. We've learned from the past that disaster victims can be vulnerable to scam artists and unlicensed contractors. NBC 7's Consumer Bob shares details. (Published Friday, May 16, 2014)

    Chris Monahan feels like one of the lucky ones. His car was damaged, his lawn furniture melted and his home smells like smoke, but at least he has a home to go back to. Some of his Carlsbad neighbors aren’t so fortunate. But Chris still needs help to bounce back.

    “They’re telling us that there is a limited amount of resources,” said Monahan.

    He’s seen contractors driving through his neighborhood looking for work but he says he’s afraid to hire someone he doesn’t know.

    “You hear that contractors come, start and don’t finish,” said Monahan.

    Sheryl Reichert with the San Diego Better Business Bureau warns fire victims to be cautious when hiring a contractor.

    “There are unsavory people out there knocking on doors of the victims,” said Reichert.

    After the 2003 and 2007 fires, Reichert says out-of-state contractors took money for work they often never completed. She says victims need to take their time when making a decision to rebuild.

    “People doing really quality work in San Diego don’t need to go door-to-door to get business,” said Reichert.

    It takes more than a friendly face and business card to complete the work. People impacted by the fire should ask for a contractor’s license and check it out. They should ask for references and examples of previous work. They should also be skeptical of anyone who says they have to commit to the work now or wait months. If you feel pressured, walk away.

    “Make sure you are hiring a quality individual that is going to do the work that you want,” said Reichert.

    One way to find a contractor is to ask friends. You can also ask contractors who did successful work in the past. A good plumber often knows a good electrician, that electrician may know a good general contractor. It is best to find your own licensed contractor rather than choose one that knocks on your door.

    After fires like this, victims are also approached by independent adjusters.

    These are people who work as a go-between or a middle man between you and your insurance company. In California they are required to have a license. You don’t necessarily need an independent adjusters but if you feel like your insurance company is treating you unfairly it is an option.

    But like shopping for a contractor, you should search out an adjuster rather than choose one walking through your neighborhood.