Basic tips can help avoid unscrupulous contractors and ensure quality work
Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today issued a consumer alert offering tips for New Yorkers to avoid falling victim to unscrupulous snow removal contractors as winter approaches. By following several basic tips when hiring a contractor, consumers can help ensure quality work and avoid falling victim to scams.
"Snow removal is an essential part of everyday life for many New Yorkers during the winter months, and taking basic precautions now can help ensure quality work and avoid problems later," Schneiderman said. "As snow begins to fall, consumers should ask important questions of snow removal contractors to ensure they're getting a quality service from a reputable provider."
The attorney general's office recognizes most snowplowing and snow removal service owners and operators are honest, but consumers should ask questions to avoid potential problems. Consumers should take the following precautions when hiring contractors for snow removal to help protect themselves from fraud:
•Obtain several quotes for snowplowing services. This will give consumers a good sense of the range of prices currently being offered.
•Don't accept a quote simply because it's the lowest. If a quote is very low, the contractor may run out of money before the winter season is over or the contractor may not have money to pay for repairs when a vehicle breaks down.
•Use a contractor that has been in business for a few years or that comes recommended by friends and neighbors. The winter season brings out many people who decide to get into the snowplowing business. New businesses may have the best of intentions, but may not have the necessary experience.
•Check to see if your local government requires snowplow contractors to be licensed. If so, use a contractor who is licensed.
•Use a contractor who is insured and has proof of insurance.
•Check for complaints with the Better Business Bureau: www.bbb.org.
•Pay one half of the contract at the beginning of the season, and one half at the end to help ensure services promised will be provided.
•Pay by check so you have proof of payment.
•Get a signed contract that has the name, address (do not accept a post office box) and telephone number of the snowplow operator. The contract should spell out how much snow must fall before the operator is required to plow your driveway.
•Obtain proof of identity of the contractor. Ask to see the contractor's driver's license and copy down the address and identification number.
•Copy down the license plate number of the vehicle that plows your driveway.
•If you have special requirements, spell it out in the contract (for example, if you are an emergency responder who must have your driveway plowed by 7 a.m. to get to work, make sure it is in the contract).
If consumers feel they have been victimized, they are urged to contact the attorney general's consumer helpline at 800-771-7755.