Archive for September, 2008

Avoid Contractor Scams- NO KATRINA MEMORIES
September 17, 2008

Contractor complaints aren’t hitting the Louisiana Attorney General’s office or our WDSU newsroom as it’s still early to recognize scams following Gustav and Ike.  But remembering the thousands of scam complaints after Katrina, let’s be proactive in stopping them this time around.  Save money and hassle by watching our story Avoid Getting Scammed  and reading our additional tips:

Before Hiring a Contractor:

• Get at least 3 bids in writing before hiring a contractor.
• In addition to personally verifying contractor’s license, check out the contractor’s complaint record with the Attorney General’s Office and the BBB.
• Only pay 10% down or $1,000, whichever is less.
• Never pay cash.
• Inspect the entire job before making final payment.

Click here and make sure you refer to this model contract before you sign anything!

Problems? Email me at WDSUconsumer@yahoo.com

Good Luck,
Melanie

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Price Gouging?
September 15, 2008

(video) Today the number of price gouging complaints post Gustav/Ike is more than 1,000 (Post Katrina they were roughly 3,100). Attorney General Buddy Caldwell assured me his office is returning EVERY complaint call on price gouging and is conducting about 5 or 6 legitimate investigations, although he says most complaints are not valid.  We receive emails of people who are not sure if they have experienced price gouging or not.  If the business has a ‘good reason’ as defined by the state (such as it’s cost of supplies went up) it’s not illegal. If the business can’t prove a good reason for raising prices it is illegal.  Make sure you have PROOF. Take a picture of the prices before/after possible gouging or save your receipt.  It sickens me to think of anyone looking to profit off of our desperation during hurricane season.

To report possible price gouging call the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection hotline at 1-800-351-4889

And keep us posted at WDSUconsumer@yahoo.com

Melanie

Contractor Concerns?
September 10, 2008

Are you having troubles hiring a contractor after Gustav? or do you need help?

Have you had problems with a contractor in the past? 

Email me at WDSUconsumer@yahoo.com

FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE FOR GUSTAV
September 4, 2008

First of all, make sure you visit this very useful website if you were affected by Hurricane Gustav
http://emergency.louisiana.gov/ Here you can find a variety of vital updates… even down to gas stations open.

Now about financial assistance…

The first question many of you ask is, “Will FEMA help?” The bottom line is it’s a case by case basis.  As many of you know there was a lot of misuse with the funds FEMA provided after KATRINA (if you were lucky enough to get assistance) so you need to explain your individual case and MAKE SURE YOU SAVE RECEIPTS. But here’s what FEMA told me, if the condition of your house is prohibiting you from returning for health or safety reasons (and that can include no power, water, or electricity) FEMA will likely assist with temporary housing whether it be extended hotel stay, or a shelter in some cases. But you have to explain your individual case – and you have to save all receipts.  *FEMA will not help with food or gas.

There are 2 ways to apply 

  • 1-800-621-3362 (1-800-621-fema) or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY users hearing impaired)
  • www.fema.gov

FEMA recommends your first line of defense be your insurance company, which of course creates anxiety for many of us.  Make sure you read these tips (from the commissioner’s office)

  • File your claim ASAP–  your policy might have a certain time frame
  • Provide accurate detailed information … incorrect or incomplete information  could cause a delay in processing your claim.
  • Keep a log of all conversations with insurance companies. Write down information about your telephone and in-person discussions, including the date, name and title of the person you spoke with and what was said. also keep a record of your time and expenses. 
  • Keep copies and records of all correspondence.
  • Ask about additional living expenses if your home is damaged to the point that you can’t live in it
  • Take photographs or videos of the damage
  • Your homeowners and auto policies might require you to make temporary repairs
    to protect your property from further damage.  If possible, take photographs or a
    video of the damage before making temporary repairs.
  • Save all receipts from the temporary and permanent repairs covered by your
    insurance policy. Your policy should cover the cost of these temporary repairs. (You might want to postpone permanent repairs until your insurance company has inspected the property and you have reached an agreement on the repair costs. Be prepared to provide the claims adjuster with records of any improvements you made prior to the damage.)
  • Try to determine what it will cost to repair your property before you
    meet with the claims adjuster.
  • Ask the claims adjuster for an itemized explanation of the claim settlement offer.
  • If the first offer made by an insurance company does not meet your expectations,
    be prepared to negotiate the offer.
  • Secure bids from multiple contractors. Ask for at least three references and check
    with your state licensing board and the better business bureau about the
    contractor’s record. Ask for proof of necessary licenses, building permits,
    insurance and bonding. Record the contractor’s license plate number and driver’s
    license number.
  • Be wary of contractors who demand payment in full before work is completed. if
    the contractor needs payment to buy supplies, accompany the contractor and pay
    the supplier directly.
  • If you cannot cover all of your living expenses following a disaster, contact your
    creditors to negotiate a payment plan.
  • If you are injured in the disaster, ask your physician to provide your insurance
    company with details about your treatment, medical conditions and prognosis.  If you suspect a medical provider is overcharging, ask the insurance company to audit the bill and verify whether the provider used the proper billing procedure.
  • If there is a disagreement about a claim, ask the company for a written letter
    explaining the reason for the denial and the specific policy language under which
    the claim is being denied. if you have any questions regarding the fairness of your
    settlement, contact your state insurance department for assistance.

Other info from commissioner’s office:

TREES ON HOMES–  Generally speaking, if your neighbor’s healthy tree falls on your home, fence, or other property, it is your insurance company’s responsibility to pay for repairing the damage. Your neighbor’s insurer would probably only accept liability and pay for the damage if the tree was dead or weakened in such a way that the owner should have known it was dangerous before it fell.

When will you get your money?  Sometimes you will receive a check quickly. However, an insurance company has up to 30 days to pay your claim after you give them satisfactory proof of loss.

NOT SATISFIED WITH INSURANCE COMPANY?

File a complaint with the Department of Insurance- For a form call 1-800-259-5300 or
225-342-1258, or print it off the Web site and mail the completed form and copies of any supporting material to:
Louisiana Department of Insurance
Property and Casualty Consumer Complaints
P.O. Box 94214, Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70804

Good luck to you, and welcome home.

Melanie

POWER OUTAGES
September 4, 2008

Estimates on power restoration times are not available; however, here is some info that might help as you return home:
Entergy Customers:
You can check the current status for entergy outages in your area here
http://www.entergy.com/storm_center/outages.aspx
Cleco Customers:
After a Storm (from Cleco)

If you lose power following a major storm, Cleco will be working around the clock to restore your power.

Stay away from downed lines. Even if you think they may be phone or cable television lines, stay away from all downed lines. Don’t step in nearby puddles or attempt to move any object that comes in contact with a wire. Report downed lines immediately.

Call 1-800-622-6537 to report a power outage or safety hazard.

If your power will be out for a longer period than your freezer will maintain cold, dry ice may be placed in your freezer. If you are using dry ice, don’t touch it or breathe the fumes. Put heavy cardboard directly on the packages of frozen food and then put the dry ice on top of the cardboard. Twenty-five pounds should hold the temperature of a half-full 10 cubic foot freezer below freezing for two to three days. Food in a fully loaded freezer will stay frozen for three to four days if the dry ice is put in soon after the freezer goes off.

If you evacuate your home, use caution upon return.  Do not attempt to turn on your breaker or lights if your home has sustained damage or flooding.  Call an electrician to inspect your home’s electrical wiring.