Hiring a contractor to clear out snow? Here's advice from the BBB

Posted at 8:27 AM, Nov 22, 2014
and last updated 2015-11-17 08:17:55-05

The aftermath of the recent storm has brought out the best in some, but also may bring out unscrupulous contractors who take advantage of those who are in need of  critical services.

The Better Business Bureau of Upstate New York wants to remind people to hire reputable  contractors to help with clean up and also to be patient while waiting for help to arrive.

BBB warns people affected by the recent storms to beware of “storm chasers”  soliciting business from people who are desperate to dig out.

Earlier this week, Attorney General Eric Schniederman warned of “price gouging”  during the storm.  Storm victims should be suspicious of vague or hesitant answers or  companies that don’t offer contracts.

“It is not uncommon for storm chasers to solicit business after bad weather, and snowstorms are no exception,” said Warren Clark, president of BBB of Upstate New York.  “Storm chasers may not have proper licenses or insurance for your area and may offer quick fixes or  make big promises on which they won’t deliver.”

BBB offers the following tips for hiring contractors:

  • Do not pay for the job in advance. Be wary of any contractor who demands full payment upfront.
  • Research companies through verifiable resources, like bbb.org.
  • Resist high-pressure sales tactics. Many unscrupulous contractors will tell consumers that the “good deal” will only be valid if they hire the contractor on the spot.
  • Get a written contract. Don’t forget to include the following specifications: the price, the work to be done, insurance and a time frame.
  • Pay by credit card. If possible; you may have additional protection if there’s a problem.
  • Check the contractor’s vehicle.  See if it has signs or markings on it with the business name, phone number and license plates for your state.

On many occasions in the past, out-of-state contractors have set up shop in storm damaged areas. BBB is warning area contractors to beware of storm chasers who are willing to pay local companies substantial amounts of money to use a local business’s established name, reputation and phone so they can masquerade as a local business.

BBB has seen this happen in other areas of the country. After doing repairs paid by insurance companies, the out-of-state contractors left the area. Many contractors who agreed to let these storm chasers use their name regret their decision once they were left holding the bag of unsatisfied customers because of bad work and/or unfulfilled warranties.