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In Eastern Washington, North Idaho and Montana
Regional Tips on Hiring a Contractor to Work on Storm Damage and Snow Removal
November 16, 2010

BBB REGIONAL STORM TIPS DEPENDING ON WHERE YOU LIVE!

MONTANA GOT SNOW: HIRING A SNOW REMOVAL CONTRACTOR

EWA AND NORTH IDAHO: HIRING A CONTRACTOR AFTER A WIND STORM

Whether it is a downed tree, a damaged roof, a cracked window or a ton of snow blocking your shed or garage, depending on what your area has seen from the weather storms in the past 24 hours, BBB shares these smart tips with its service area about how to look for and hire a trustworthy contractor to serve your needs.

Consider Hiring a BBB Accredited Business

TIPS ON HIRING A SNOW REMOVAL CONTRACTOR

With whiteout conditions hitting Montana overnight, consumers may be looking for an alternative to shoveling mounds of snow. For consumers planning to hire a snow removal contractor, Better Business Bureau recommends the following tips:

Check reliability. Check out the business with BBB's free Business Reviews, and even consider hiring a BBB Accredited Business. You can gain Accredited Business Rosters for your area by entering your zip code at: www.bbb.org which will take you to your regional BBB site. Also, ask the business for references and check them.

Get several estimates. Prices can vary widely. They are usually based on the amount of work, including: the layout of the property, size of the area to be cleared, and whether the customer requests shoveling or snow blowing to remove excess snow from other areas in addition to driveway plowing. Remember, the least expensive service is not always the best.

Understand the services. Find out exactly what's included in the estimate. Are the walks and steps included? What about the cost of sand or salt? Does the consumer call when service is needed or does the business automatically come when the snow falls? How quickly can the consumer expect service? Will the company clear only after the storm has passed or during the snowfall as well? If the contractor has to come back, is there an additional charge?

Ask about additional charges and price options. Some contractors offer a fixed price for the entire season, regardless of the amount of snow. However, some companies have additional charges during large storms, after the snow reaches a certain depth where they charge by the inch; if so, find out how the company calculates the size of the snowfall. Also, ask if there are additional charges for snow removal on holidays.

Get an in-person estimate and written agreement. Do not settle for verbal promises over the telephone. Get a written agreement. A representative should come out to examine the property and make notes about the service requested and potential obstacles. Before signing the agreement, ask who will be responsible for damages, such as cracked driveways or broken gates. Also, understand if the agreement can be terminated, if necessary. Verify the business is licensed. Ask if the contractor is insured or bonded.

Keep expectations realistic. Keep in mind that a snow storm makes traveling difficult for customers and the contractor. During major snowfalls, workers are required to use more caution when plowing and traveling, therefore it may take longer for the contractor to reach and complete the contracted work.

Avoid scams. If a snow removal service shows up at the door, don't feel pressured to sign up for an agreement immediately or pay upfront for a service. Reliable businesses will give customers full business contact information, references and be willing to let consumers check their reliability before making a decision.

TIPS ON HIRING A CONTRACTOR TO HANDLE STORM DAMAGE ISSUES

BBB experience dictates that after a wind storm occurs like what happened throughout the Inland NW last night, storm chasing traveling contractors are usually at the scene within hours. It’s tempting to give them the go-ahead to make repairs, especially if a storm has shattered windows, left a gaping hole in your roof or siding. Storm chasers are usually from out of town and often out of state. They are looking for ways to make quick money. Some complete the work, but use inferior materials and workmanship. Others ask for a deposit or even the entire cost upfront and never return. And sometimes you get lucky and the work is done well at a fair price. BBB offers the following tips in the wake of weather damage conditions:

*Call your insurance agent and then start researching reliable contractors. (TIP: Go to bbb.org and look up Accredited Business contractors in your area). You’ll find them in your hometown or county. Also, ask friends and family for references.

*Check any prospects out with the
Better Business Bureau (BBB). Does the contractor have a viable phone number and address? Have there been complaints? Go online and research subjective blogs to gain some insight. What do other property owners have to say about his or her work? Ask a potential contractor for references, and actually follow through and call them.

*Ask the contractor for proof that he or she is bonded and insured. Don’t just go with a verbal confirmation regarding licensing and bonding. Due to the nature of these registrations, current and up-to-date info is available, and what you may be shown in print may be outdated. COnsult with your state regulator to confirm up-to-date and current licensing, insurance and bonding.

*Ask for a written contract and read it PRIOR TO SIGNING to ensure everything that was discussed is included. If there is a deadline required for finishing the work, make sure it is stated in the contract. Do not sign a contract that has blank spaces in it. 

Only then should you give the go-ahead to do the work.

If in doubt, contact BBB for sage advice: 800-356-1007, www.bbb.org