Snow and ice cleanup and repairs can be costly and a prime opportunity for scammers

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JP Kiernan of West Hartford roof rakes to minimize ice dams. He said it hasn't been working well for him.

CROMWELL – In the aftermath of the recent wave of blizzards, Connecticut Better Business Bureau is warning consumers that the post-storm cleanup and repairs can be extremely costly, especially if you don’t do your research.  Blizzards, windstorms and floods bring out “storm chasers” who are looking to make a quick buck, sometimes unethically.

Prepare yourself for higher on-the-spot prices for snow cleanup.  In the absence of a contract, keep in mind that this is peak season for snow removers, and that some may charge several hundred dollars if you wave them down on the street to clear your driveway.

A pressing concern for property owners is the buildup of snow and ice on their rooftops and in their gutters.  The weight of snow on a roof can cause serious property damage.  But so can ice, and in other parts of blizzard-battered New England, there are reports of some contractors asking for hundreds of dollars per hour and even thousands of dollars per job to remove ice dams – a buildup of ice at the edge of the roof that can leak into ceiling and walls.

Consumers who are desperate to start repairs may be quick to hire the first contractor that comes knocking — but that can be a costly mistake with long term consequences.

BBB recommends doing your research before hiring anyone who:

  •  Isn’t properly licensed or registered
  • Has no local office
  • Demands cash upfront or a deposit
  • Shows up at your door and tells you – without your asking – that your property is unsafe
  • Cannot provide any references

Connecticut Better Business Bureau has a checklist to avoid problems and find a reputable contractor:

Contact your insurance company – Fixing storm-related damage is a priority. Make certain you understand what repairs are covered, any exclusions and any deductibles.  Your insurer can guide you through the process.

Even small jobs should be in writing – A handwritten contract is better than nothing.  It should describe the extent of work to be performed and pricing.

Obtain several bids – Visit www.bbb.org to research prospective contractors or find a reputable one for repairs.  Obtain several bids to assess what work is required, when and how.

Avoid cutting corners – If snow and ice aren’t removed properly, an unqualified contractor can make a bad situation worse and do significant damage to your home.  The lowest bid is not necessarily the best one.

The bottom line?  There are many contractors who offer their services on bulletin boards, by telephone, in leaflets, online and at the front door.  The best way to find a qualified one is by checking http://www.bbb.org.

Howard Schwartz, Connecticut Better Business Bureau