ALBANY - Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today issued a guide to New Yorkers recovering and rebuilding after Hurricane Irene, including tips on how to avoid scams as they restore and rebuild their homes and businesses. The Attorney General's guide includes tips to protect consumers from scams related to home repair, clean up services and tree removal and he's urging individuals who believe they have been scammed to contact his office at 800-771-7755.
"New Yorkers have already suffered tremendous losses and I will fight to make sure they are not victimized again by unscrupulous individuals," said Attorney General Schneiderman. "As hurricane and flood victims work to get their lives and property back in order, it's important to know how to identify, avoid and report scammers."
Recovering from the Storm: Property Cleanup and Repair
Repairing buildings and driveways, clearing downed trees — you may need to hire professionals to complete these jobs. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Check with your insurance company.
Before making any decisions, be clear about what will be covered and any steps you will need to take.
- Ask for references, check for licenses.
Ask about local work contractors have done. Talk to the people who hired them; look at the jobs if you can. Make sure the contractor has any license required by your local government.
- Estimates are important: get it in writing.
Ask that all estimates for work be in writing and include a description of the material to be used. Be clear that you will not pay for work done that is not agreed upon in writing. Verify that the material used is the same as described in the estimate. Make sure any changes to the estimate are in writing.
- Use a contractor with an address you can verify.
If your contractor is “here today and gone tomorrow,” you may find it difficult to enforce the guarantee.
- Never pay the full price up front.
Establish a payment schedule and adhere to it. Withhold final payment until the entire project is completed to your satisfaction and all required inspections and certificates of occupancy are finalized.
- Always be sure the contractor has valid insurance.
If a worker is injured, or damage is caused on your property, you could be held liable if your contractor does not have the required insurance.
- Check with your town or city for required permits.
Don't let a contractor work without the necessary permits. Failing to get approvals can delay your project, or prevent you from occupying a completed building.
- Price Gouging
New York State law forbids those selling essential consumer goods and services — like food, water, gas, generators, batteries and flashlights, and services such as storm clean-up and disposal — from charging excessive prices during an abnormal disruption of the market. If you believe you are a victim of price gouging, contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Helpline at 800-771-7755 or find a complaint form online at: www.ag.ny.gov
For a print version of these tips you can also go to the Attorney General's website: www.ag.ny.gov