Attorney General Josh Stein
June 2018Summer weather brings a lot to be excited about, but don’t forget that it also brings hurricane season. Unfortunately, experts are predicting an especially high level of hurricane activity this year. We can’t know how natural disasters will impact our homes and neighborhoods, but there are some things you can do and should know to be prepared for storms and natural disasters.To better handle the aftermath of a storm, organize important documents and information beforehand, so they are easily accessible if you need to evacuate. Store them in a safe place, or inside a waterproof/fireproof container that you can quickly take with you. Think about who you’d need to contact, and what information you’ll need, if a storm does hit – insurance policies, mortgage and bank documents, passports and social security cards, health insurance cards, copies of your ID cards and drivers’ licenses, and important phone numbers. Don’t forget to take your bills with you – even if a natural disaster hits and you need to evacuate, creditors will still expect you to pay on time.When you hear about storms that may make landfall where you live, withdraw some emergency cash and fuel up. Make sure that your cell phone, laptop, and other devices are fully charged.Take some pictures and videos of your home as it is, so you have an inventory that will make it easier if you have to submit an insurance claim. Back up these photos in a second location, or email them to yourself, so you can access them from anywhere.If a state of emergency is declared where you live, North Carolina’s price gouging law will immediately go into effect. 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 1-877-5-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 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 or contact my office’s Consumer Protection Division at 1-877-5-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.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.Getting back to normal after a major disaster or home damage can take time. Make sure you’re prepared in case of any inclement weather this hurricane season and know what steps to take afterward. For more information about storm preparedness and recovery information, visit readync.org, and you can always contact my office at 1-877-5-NO-SCAM.