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Minnesota Opinion: Prevent the scammers from cleaning up this spring

Forum News Service Spring cleaning is under way! Homeowners throughout (west central Minnesota) are spiffing up their homes and yards with a variety of improvement projects. Unfortunately, they're not the only ones cleaning up -- so are crooks an...

Forum News Service

Spring cleaning is under way!

Homeowners throughout (west central Minnesota) are spiffing up their homes and yards with a variety of improvement projects.

Unfortunately, they’re not the only ones cleaning up - so are crooks and con artists.

Recently, the Alexandria Building Department received a phone call from a local contractor who said that a non-local contractor has been going door-to-door in the area, telling people that their roofing is bad.

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In one instance, the non-local solicitor told a homeowner, an older individual, that his company would be able to replace the roof, work with the owner’s insurance company on a claim and take care of other details.

The local, highly reputable contractor decided to go over to the house in question and take a look. He found the roof to be just fine. It didn’t need any repairs.

“This kind of thing happens all too often,” said Lynn Timm, Alexandria’s building official, in an email to the newspaper. “These characters prey on older people, people who aren’t very construction savvy and people who can be easily persuaded.”

She warned that homeowners should be on the alert when it comes to hiring a contractor, especially a roofing contractor, and don’t fall for high-pressure sales tactics and too-good-to-be-true promises.

Coincidentally, the newspaper also received an alert from the Better Business Bureau recently about fly-by-night companies offering to trim trees and collect fallen branches. The BBB noted there are many reliable companies that offer these services, but there are also a few that are looking to be paid for work they have no plans to finish.

The BBB urged consumers to take steps to ensure their property is in good hands. “It’s important to take the same amount of care finding a business to perform work outside your home as you do when you’re preparing to remodel,” said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota. “Always be sure you know who you’re dealing with.”

The BBB offers the following tips for hiring a tree trimmer or a yard service, and they can apply to roofing companies as well:

Hire a professional. Research companies for free at bbb.org or use the BBB’s Online Directory to find BBB Accredited Businesses. Ask for references.

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Be wary of door-to-door solicitations. Each year, countless homeowners have companies knock on their door and offer to provide their services at a discount. ...

Ask if they’re listed. In Minnesota, all companies and individuals that provide tree care or tree trimming services and/or who remove trees, limbs, branches, brush or shrubs for hire should be listed with Minnesota’s Tree Care Registry. This includes public, private, and governmental entities. To verify this, visit www2.mda.state.mn.us/webapp/lis/default.jsp. ...

Request an onsite inspection. The inspection should include the entire tree, not just parts that appear to be damaged, in poor condition or in danger of falling. Risk assessment can be done at the same time and it helps consumers determine which trees are categorized as higher-risk, therefore needing immediate attention. ...

Get everything in writing. A contract should clearly state the services you will receive, as well as when the job is expected to be completed, payment terms and conditions, contact information for the company - phone number and address - as well as any refund or cancellation policy.

Verify insurance coverage. Confirm that the company has insurance that covers worker’s compensation, property damage and personal liability in case of accidents.

Remember, you’re the customer; it’s your home. Don’t feel pressured to choose a business just because someone is standing on your doorstep. You also want to avoid paying in cash and should never write a check out to a company employee.

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