Cleaning up without getting cleaned out
I don't know about you, but I’m about ready to say "uncle" to Old Man Winter.
This year's record-breaking snowfalls, downed trees, roof collapses, mudslides, flooding and frozen pipes are leaving overwhelming clean-up and recovery in their wake. If you're thinking about hiring someone to help you dig out, keep these tips in mind:
- If someone promises immediate clean-up or demands payment up-front, be skeptical. It won't save time — or money — if you hire someone who lacks the skills, licenses, and insurance to legally do the work.
- Before you let anyone into your home or business, check them out with your state and local consumer protection officials. And, when they show up, check their ID.
- Do tree and debris removal contractors need to be licensed in your area? Find out from local officials — and if so, confirm that the contractor you're considering is up to date.
- Ask the contractor you're considering to show you a current license and certificate of insurance. If a contractor tells you some work is covered by your insurance, call your insurance company to confirm.
- Don't sign documents you don't understand. Ask someone you trust, like a family member, to read them with you. You can always ask the company what the fine print means, but it's what's in writing that matters — not what someone tells you.
- Negotiate a reasonable down payment in advance. Only pay in full when you're satisfied that the work is done — and done well.
- Pay with a credit card or check. If a contractor asks for a deposit or full payment in cash, stop. That's a warning sign that something's not right.
- Trust your gut. If you have any doubts about hiring someone or entering into a contract, take your business elsewhere.
For more tips to help you prepare for, deal with, and recover from a weather emergency, visit Dealing with Weather Emergencies.