Consumer Alerts

    Don’t Get Stormed Twice


    February 19, 2015

    Ice and snow can take a toll on trees and cause other property damage, and with the recent winter weather that moved across Arkansas, many are faced with the reality of cleaning up.

    Some Arkansans will choose to make property repairs on their own, but others may seek assistance from home-repair professionals or tree-removal specialists. Although most contractors are reputable, others may attempt to take advantage of Arkansans in the wake of this week’s snow and ice by overcharging or under delivering on promised work.

    Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued today’s alert to urge consumers to be cautious as they seek professional clean-up help, and to be aware of scams related to debris removal.

    “Cleaning up following winter weather can already be time-consuming and costly without a consumer being taken advantage of by con artists,” said Attorney General Rutledge. “After storms, scammers see an opportunity to take advantage of Arkansans. Many times, if consumers get estimates and speak with family, friends and neighbors, they can avoid falling victim.”

    After the snow and ice melt, scammers typically target affected neighborhoods. Using high-pressure sales tactics, these con artists get quick buy-in from those in need of urgent help. They may charge higher than normal prices, or so-called “emergency” prices, and demand up-front payment for services. Oftentimes, these con artists leave jobs incomplete or fail to begin the work at all once payment is received.

    The Attorney General offered the following tips to consumers who need home-repair or tree trimming services:

    • Select a reputable contractor. Always ask family, friends and neighbors for recommendations, and never be afraid to ask the contractor for references.

    • Always get multiple estimates. Consumers want to act quickly to repair damages or have a tree removed, but getting at least three estimates to compare prices will save money in the long run.

    • Get it in writing. A contract should contain details about the price of the project and any agreement on financing. It should indicate the exact work that is to be done, the type and quality of materials to be used, and the expected completion date.

    • Never pay in advance. One option that should be satisfactory for both parties is an arrangement where one-third of the expected cost is paid in advance, a third is paid during the work and the final installment is paid at the time of completion. Consumers should always inspect the completed project before making final payment to make sure the completed work meets their expectations.

    • Always handle insurance payments directly. If insurance payments are involved, consumers should deal with the insurance company directly rather than authorizing a contractor to negotiate with the company.

    For more information about this or other consumer issues, visit www.ArkansasAG.gov or call the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division hotline at (800) 482-8982.

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