Winter continues and so does the threat of storms and dangerous weather. Most New Englanders are used to the conditions Mother Nature delivers this time of year, but the clean up after storms may be a task some consumers prefer to leave in the hands of a professional. Better Business Bureau of Central New England offers advice to consumers searching for a snow removal contractor to help dig them out the rest of the winter season.
“Consumers should plan ahead. If they know a storm is coming, call around and research different snow removal contractors before making a decision,” said Nancy B. Cahalen, President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Central New England. “It pays to find a contractor that is reliable and trustworthy.”
BBB offers these tips to consider when hiring a snow removal contractor:
· 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.
· Check reliability. Check out the business with BBB's free Reliability Reports by visiting bbb.org. Also, ask the business for references and check them.
· 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. Be sure to keep a copy of the written contract.
· 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.