By Josh Stein
As we prepare for and recover from Hurricane Florence and its devastation, there are a number of ways we can all be prepared. We’re all thinking about our emergency kits, food, batteries and keeping safe, but here are some things to be aware of before and after the storm.
The state of North Carolina is currently in a state of emergency. That means our price gouging law is in effect and will remain so for at least 45 days. Price gouging, or charging too much during a crisis, is against the law. If you know of businesses or companies charging excessive prices, let my office know by calling 877-5-NO-SCAM or filing a price gouging complaint.
Cleaning up and rebuilding after a storm can be stressful. Many people might offer to help, but beware of scammers looking to make money off you during a tough time. Make sure to contact your insurance company before any repair work is done and catalog the damage to your home in case you’ll need an adjuster’s approval before repairs are done. When dealing with insurance adjusters, confirm with your insurance company that they are legitimate employees. Sometimes scammers may pose as adjusters to pressure you into paying for unneeded or low-quality repairs.
When looking for a reputable repair or debris and tree removal company, do some research before you make a selection. You can check out companies with the Better Business Bureau, contact my office’s Consumer Protection Division at 877-5-NO-SCAM, or ask your friends and neighbors for recommendations. Ask for and compare multiple estimates before you make a selection. Don’t pay for work upfront, and inspect it carefully to ensure you’re satisfied before you pay. Use a credit card in case you need to dispute payment later. Don’t pay with cash.
If you’re having trouble meeting mortgage payments after a natural disaster hits, there are federal disaster resources that can help you avoid foreclosure. Find housing counselors and other disaster relief resources here.
Beware of scammers trying to take advantage of our desire to help our neighbors. Some scammers may pose as charity organizations and make pleas for disaster relief funds that won’t ever reach those who really need it. Research charities carefully before you give and verify they are legitimate with the N.C. Secretary of State.
If you had vacation plans that were canceled or cut short, you may be entitled to a refund depending on the specifics of your circumstances and the property or business’ cancellation policy. Refer to your vacation rental agreement or contract, and contact my office if you have questions or concerns.
Getting back to normal after a major disaster or home damage can take time. Make sure you’re prepared for inclement weather this hurricane season and know what steps to take afterward. For more information about storm preparedness and recovery information, visit www.readync.org, and you can always contact my office online at www.ncdoj.gov/disaster or at 877-5-NO-SCAM. Recovering from Florence will be hard for many North Carolinians, but we’re here to help.
Josh Stein serves as attorney general for North Carolina.