State officials: Beware of door-to-door contractors during flood cleanup

Flooding near Greenway Station in Middleton

MADISON — State officials are warning victims of flooding from recent rains to be on the lookout for door-to-door contractors promising quick help at a great price.

The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) says these operations have a history of doing sub-par work for high prices or simply running off with a victim’s money.

These teams come and go from an area without a trace, leaving consumers empty-handed and with no recourse for any work left unfinished or any damage they have done to a homeowner’s property. They may pressure homeowners for upfront payments or increase their prices arbitrarily as they work.

Consumer Protection offers these tips for homeowners with storm damage:

  • Be wary of any contractor who knocks at your door. Call the police or sheriff’s department to check them out.
  • Hire a contractor based on referrals. Ask friends and neighbors for recommendations and ask contractors for references. Before you sign a contract, contact the Bureau of Consumer Protection to see if we have received complaints about the business.
  • Try to get a local contractor. Be careful if local contractors are using outside subcontractors.
  • Get lien waivers from anyone you pay for home repairs. It is necessary to do this because if the person collecting the money does not pay the supplier or worker, a lien could be put on your property.
  • Get a written contract with a start and completion date and warranty information. Also, make certain that the contract states exactly what work is to be done and what materials are to be used. Never rely on a verbal commitment.
  • Have someone watch the work being done. Check with your local building inspector to see if the work requires a permit and make sure an inspector visits the job site before you provide final payment.
  • Request a copy of the contractor’s certificate of liability insurance.

For additional information or to file a complaint, visit the Consumer Protection Bureau at http://datcp.wi.gov, send an e-mail to datcphotline@wisconsin.gov or call the Consumer Protection Hotline toll-free at 1-800-422-7128.