Feb 3, 2011 7:54 PM by Zach Thaxton

BBB: Beware of scams in the wake of burst water pipes

The Better Business Bureau of Southern Colorado is warning people to beware of potential scammers looking to capitalize on the rash of broken water pipes and flooding related to this week's severely cold temperatures.

"They're opportunists," said Katie Carrol with the BBB.  "They're going to know that people are desperate for help, need their pipes fixed, and people won't take the time to do the homework on the company because they need to get it fixed."

Carrol says the BBB has not received word of any specific scammers that have set up shop, "but I am 99.9 percent sure that there will be."  She advises getting multiple competing bids from restoration companies and getting an assurance of service in writing before the work begins.  Carrol also says the BBB realizes people need to act fast to get repairs started, so doing all the proper leg-work may not be a viable option.

"One company that we know that's a member said they had 500 calls Wednesday alone," Carrol said.  "It shows that there's so many people in need of service, and that's a great opportunity for scammers to take advantage of them."

Steve Guthrie, president of 1-800-FLOODED, says this week alone has brought the same amount of business as they would normally do in a 6-month span.  "This is the busiest week we've had in ten years."  He says his company and other flooding and restoration companies are overwhelmed and running out of equipment due to all of the calls for service.  "Response times have gone down from three to four hours, to two to three days right now," Guthrie said.  "Most of the mitigation companies, ourself included, are running out of equipment.  Equipment is being transferred around from different parts of the country.  It's very difficult to get the drying equipment to do the jobs right now."

The good news for most homeowners:  insurance will likely cover the cost of repairs.  "Anytime it's a freeze break, where cold weather freezes a pipe that's on the interior of the house, it is covered by your homeowner's insurance," Guthrie said.  The bad news:  the total time for water extraction, drying, demolition, and renovation could last weeks, or even months.

"There goes our Super Bowl party," said Mandy Roderick, whose home near Austin Bluffs Parkway and Stetson Hills Boulevard sustained a flooded basement Thursday when a pipe in the crawlspace cracked and burst.  Her homeowner's insurance policy will cover the cost of repairs, minus a $1,000 deductible.  Roderick says Guthrie's "ballpark" total cost estimate for repairs and renovation is "anywhere between $10,000 and $20,000."


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