Storm Sandy blew through Upstate New York and lefta myriad of concern for our community. Natural disasters like Storm Sandy canbring out the best in people, as strangers reach out to help others in need.Unfortunately, BBB experience tells us crises also bring out persons who chooseto take advantage of the victims.
Some of the most common "after-disaster"scams involve damage done to trees. Seems simple enough however it’s importantto consider Better Business Bureau tips for homeowners who suffered tree damagein the wake of the storm:
- Check with your insurance company about policy coverage and specific filing requirements.
- Check the BBB Accredited Business Directory to find a business you can trust. Not only are these businesses committed to honest and ethical practices, but the BBB has checked licensing requirements and should something go wrong, these businesses have committed to respond to your concerns.
- Take time to shop around and get 3 estimates. For large projects, ask the tree service how many projects like yours they have completed in the last year. Ask for several local references that are at least one year-old and follow through on checking them.
- Verify with your local city or town municipality to determine if tree removal businesses are required to be licensed/registered to do work in your area.
- Check to see whether the business in question is a member of any reputable trade association, such as the NYS Arborists.
- Ask if certified arborists, who have professional training and certifications, are on staff. An experienced arborist is particularly important on projects involving large trees or removal of substantial branches on established trees.
- Make sure each tree service you are considering has current liability insurance and workers compensation insurance. All certificates of insurance should be sent from the tree service’s insurance agency directly to you. Otherwise, it could be a fraudulent certificate.
- Require a written contract agreement with anyone you hire. Be sure their name, address, license number, if applicable, and phone number are included in the contract. Read and understand the contract in its entirety and don’t sign a blank contract. A copy of the signed contract is to be given to you at time of signature. Do not assume that tree stump removal is included in the contract if it is not specified.
- Once you have picked a tree service you feel comfortable with, never pay for a tree removal or tree trimming project of any kind until you are 100% satisfied with the work. Pay by credit card only when the job is complete. Paying by credit card provides some recourse should the job not be completed as stated in the contract.
- Although you may be anxious to get things back to normal, avoid letting your emotions get the better of you. Don't be pressured into making an immediate decision. Be wary of door-to-door solicitations and check to see if your community requires them to have solicitation permits.
Ask how the job will be done, and if they will performthe work according to industry standards. If they mention “topping a tree,”“lion’s-tailing” or “using climbing spikes to prune a tree” the company doesnot follow industry standards. “Topping” is drastically cutting back themajor limbs of a tree to reduce its size. “Lion’s tailing” is an extremestripping out of most of the interior branches of a tree. Such practicescan injure or kill your tree.
Some techniques will be presented as a way to save moneyby removing more of the tree at one time. However a tree pruned by one of thesemethods usually requires more expensive restoration work in the future in orderto save it.
Beware of a tree service if they:
- Don’t have printed materials, letterhead, bid forms, etc.
- Are vague about formal credentials as an arborist.
- Offer an unusually low price . . . at first.
- Only accepts cash payments, and/or asks for payment up front.
- Pressures you for an immediate decision.
- Offers you a discount to find other customers.
Residents may also encounter other types of debrisfrom damaged buildings, household and other types of hazardous waste. BBBencourages consumers to check with the New York Department ofEnvironmental Conservation for information on where debris may be stored. Remember, your main goal is to regain yoursense of normalcy while doing so within the guidelines set by our state andfederal agency.
Disaster victims should never feel forced to make ahasty decision or to choose an unknown tree service. For reliable information,lists of BBB Accredited Businesses by industry and BBB Business Reviews you cantrust on local businesses, visit bbb.org or call800.828.5000.