SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — With many Bay Area homes sustaining damage in the recent storms, a huge demand has been created for contractors to do repairs.

The urgent need to fix storm-ravaged houses can make homeowners easy prey.

It’s never easy to get a contractor. But with all the rain and flood damage, it’s getting even harder.

The backlog of work for contractors has some unscrupulous construction workers trying to take advantage of the demand. The storms have delivered an array of problems ranging from fallen trees to flooding to leaky roofs.

Chad Maimone of Element Roofing is one of dozens of Bay Area contractors ConsumerWatch spoke with who say they are simply swamped.

“I would say we’re up 60 percent, 70 percent from normal,” said Maimone. “Most book out for weeks; in some cases, months!”

In addition the storms, contractors say years of dry weather prompted many to postpone much needed work.

“I have people calling me now that I gave a bid to 6 months ago and this rain is forcing them to make a decision,” explained Maimone.

That urgency is triggering a warning from state officials.

“Don’t rush in with the first individual that shows up with a contract that promises they can make your nightmare go away,” said Peter Ceowan, an investigator with the Contractor State License Board. “It could possibly lead to a bigger nightmare.”

Ceowan says when legitimate licensed contractors get busy, desperate homeowners can become easy targets.

“Unlicensed individuals can show up or solicit their services and the home owner, in the rush to get the work done, is going to go with the first person that shows up,” said Ceowan. “Which frequently can be a mistake.”

Ceowan says no matter how desperate you are for a repair, keep in mind that rushing in could cost you. Before hiring anyone, always check their license on the CSLB website and confirm they have workers comp on every employee.

Also remember, it is illegal for a contractor to accept down payment of more than 10 percent or $1,000 — whichever is less. A request for more should be a red flag.

“Don’t be one of those people that makes a bad decision and figures it out when it’s too late,” said Maimone.

The CSLB warns homeowners to be cautious of contractors who says they’ll work on your behalf with your insurance company or who asks that you sign over insurance checks to them.

For flood or storm related questions about contractors, you can call the disaster hotline at 1-800-962-1125 Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

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