The Texas Board of Plumbing Examiners now is allowed to issue provisional licenses to out-of-state plumbers to increase the response to burst pipes and flooding, according to a press release issued by the Gov. Greg Abbott's office. Abbott also will issue a waiver that allows plumbers currently holding an expired license to assist, waiving certain fees and examination requirements, so they, too, can help Texans in need following the storm.
The Better Business Bureau's Katie Galan has a some advice for those navigating the influx freeze-related issues and unfamiliar help.
"It's a good idea to look for BBB Accredited plumbers, roofers and other contractors when looking to get work done to your home," she said.
She also said to be on the lookout for scammers looking to take advantage of the severe weather, AKA "storm chasers," and to avoid hiring any contractor who uses high-pressure sales tactics such as “today only” offers.
The Texas Department of Insurance states it’s against the law for a contractor to offer to waive an insurance deductible, or work the deductible amount into a bid, Galan said, and be sure you get all pricing and the scope of work in writing.
Texas Business & Commerce Code § 58.001 et seq., regulates the actions of disaster-remediation contractors who do not maintain offices within a county or adjacent county of the disaster. Unless a disaster remediation-contractor has an established office in the county or adjacent county where a property is located for at least one year prior to the contract, a disaster remediation contractor cannot require full or partial payment before beginning work and can only require partial payment reasonably proportionate to work performed.
Galan said it's always good to work with your insurance company.
"You want to check your insurance policy to see what’s covered and make adjustments accordingly," she said. "Ask about your policy coverage and specific filing requirements. Your insurance company may also have recommended contractors if something happens."
Another tip: never sign over insurance checks to contractors. Galan advises getting an invoice from the contractor and paying them directly.
It's best to use a credit card, which offers additional fraud protection, over other forms of payment. Don’t sign any documents that give the contractor any rights to your insurance claims. If you have questions, contact your insurance company or agent.
In some cases homeowners will see price gouging following disaster declarations. This is illegal in Texas, but keep in mind that high prices alone don’t constitute price gouging.
To read more about it or report potential price gouging, click here. The state attorney general handles price gouging accusations.
Renters have rights when it comes to repairs on a property they are renting. If you are a tenant and have damage, contact your landlord right away. Also contact your insurance company and review your rental agreement. The Texas Attorney General’s office offers an overview of renter’s rights.
If you have an questions or concerns about a contractor, business or product log onto bbb.org for more.