Due to the storms earlier this week, many residents suffered damages to their yards and property due to fallen limbs and trees. Now that clean up has begun, Chief Michael Begonis and the Wilmington Police Department want to remind residents to be careful when hiring individuals or companies to remove trees or repair damage. Often times, unlicensed contractors and scammers will come to an area after a storm offering tree removal, home repairs, or debris removal. Often times they will demand payment up-front for work that is never completed. Other times, the workers may simply lack the skills, licenses, and insurance to legally do the work.
The Federal Trade Commission lists these tips to help protect yourself, your property, and your money:
- Check with local consumer protection officials to find out whether tree and debris removal contractors need to be licensed in your area. If so, check out the license for the contractor you’re considering. Never sign any document or pay any contractor before verifying their license.
- Ask contractors for references and, if possible, call previous clients. Talk with your neighbors about what they’re paying for similar work.
- Write down the contractor’s driver’s license and vehicle information (make, model, and license plate number) in case you need to report the contractor to authorities.
- Ask a contractor to give you their license and certificate of insurance once they are on your property. If a contractor tells you certain work is covered by your insurance, call your insurance company to confirm.
- Get a written estimate and sign a written contract. Make sure it includes a description of the work, the materials included, when the work will be finished, the price, and the address and phone number of the contractor. Read all contracts and make sure all the blanks are filled in before you sign.
- Pay with a credit card or check so you can dispute charge or cancel the payment if there are problems later. Be wary of contractors who ask you to pay them in cash – even for a deposit. Negotiate a reasonable down payment, and only pay in full when the work is done to your satisfaction.
- Trust your gut. If you have any doubts about hiring someone, take your business elsewhere.
- If you have second thoughts about the contractor you hired, you have the right to cancel a contract within three days if you signed it in your home or at a seller’s temporary location, like a hotel room, convention center, or restaurant.
Often times, it is our elderly residents that fall victim to these scams. We encourage residents to check on their elderly parents and neighbors to ensure that they do not fall prey to unscrupulous individuals. If you are suspicious of an individual offering to do work in your neighborhood: Call the Wilmington Police Department at (978) 658-5071 and we will have an Officer respond to the area. If possible, try to get a physical description of the individual, a description of their vehicle, a their license plate number.