Consumer Advisory Bulletin (updated January 2010)
Tree-Trim Tips: Consumer Tips for Iowans with Storm-Damaged Trees
Following is a bulletin from Attorney General Tom Miller with tips for Iowans coping with storm-related tree damage who are hiring contractors for clean-up and removal:
The main problems we have seen in the past:
- Taking payment and doing little or no work — especially by persons from out of town.
- Starting a job but quitting in midstream because it's too difficult (and perhaps taking your money.)
- Promising to take branches away "for the firewood," but only taking big pieces and leaving a mess.
- Putting pressure especially on older Iowans, especially by out-of-state persons.
The main consumer tips to follow:
- NEVER PAY IN ADVANCE. This is a recipe for being cheated by a total scam artist, or even by a local person who doesn't finish the job.
- If at all possible, deal with an established and reputable local business. Try to deal with a local outfit even if it's not an established contractor.
- Check with your insurance carrier about coverage and preferred service providers before obligating yourself to a specific contractor (because some insurance companies have contractor relationships for disaster situations.)
- Be sure to have a clear understanding of the price, the job to be done, and when.
- It's best to have a written contract.
- It's good to have a written estimate.
- It's crucial to have full agreement on the job to be done (including clean-up.)
- Get professional help if the job is risky to workers or your property. It may be very important that they are insured.
- COMPLAIN TO THE ATTORNEY GENERAL OR LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT if you have been cheated. (Consumer Protection Division: 515-281-5926, or 888-777-4590, toll-free.)
- Note that "price-gouging" is by rule an "unfair practice" and consumer fraud violation during disasters. Contact the Attorney General's Office.
- Volunteer to help older neighbors as they deal with contractors (and be sure they aren't intimidated into paying for work that was not done.)
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