Storm Damage Repairs

The Montgomery County Office of Consumer Protection (OCP), warns county residents to be cautious when hiring contractors to repair damage caused by storms. The OCP advises consumers to do the following before signing any home repair, home improvement or tree service contracts:

Do not panic and hire someone because they are the only company who can come out to the home immediately. Make sure the contractor is licensed with the Maryland Home Improvement Commission (MHIC) by calling 410-230-6309 or on online:  MHIC Public Query. Make sure the contractor is familiar with and has expertise in repairingmhi storm damage.

If "storm chasers" come to your door, ask to see their door-to-door salesman license issued by the Department of Permitting Services.

For tree service or removal, check to see if the business is a licensed tree expert with Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Forestry Division at 410-260-8521 or online at DNR's Licensing and Registration Service. If a licensed company is used, there is a complaint process through the Department of Natural Resources. If an unlicensed company is used, it is often impossible to track the company down, particularly if they have been paid in advance. In addition, consumers should ask to see written verification of the company's insurance and workers compensation.

Do your homework. Get three estimates from different contractors. Some fraudulent contractors will capitalize on this situation and overcharge consumers or lead them to believe the damage is worse than it really is. State law requires a written contract including the terms and conditions of the warranty. The manufacturer's warranty should be a separate, written document. The home improvement contract must include:

  • Contractor's name, address and home improvement license number;
  • Approximate starting and finishing dates;
  • Work to be done and materials to be used;
  • Cost and terms of payment

State law prohibits home improvement contractors from collecting more than one-third of the contract amount as a deposit. If the contract is signed in your home, the contract must allow the consumer five or seven days in which to cancel the contract. Under emergency situations only, the consumer may waive this right to cancel, but must sign a special form to do so.

Check the contractors' complaint records with OCP at 240.777.3636 or online. Also check the MHIC's complaint records at 410.230.6309.