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Published April 01, 2009, 12:00 AM

Beware of flood scams

Homeowners advised to be cautious during cleanup
Cleanup crews, ranging from reputable contractors to potential scam artists, are already looking for flood repair and cleanup work.

By: Craig McEwen, INFORUM

Homeowners advised to be cautious during cleanup

Cleanup crews, ranging from reputable contractors to potential scam artists, are already looking for flood repair and cleanup work.

“People are starting to ask, talk about and wonder about people coming from out of the area to do storm cleanup,” said David Martin, president of the Chamber of Commerce of Fargo Moorhead.

The question came up at a daily flood meeting Tuesday.

Flood victims needing home or business cleanup and repairs should make sure that whomever they hire is licensed, bonded, insured and able to provide references, Martin said.

Barb Grieman, interim president of the Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota, also warns homeowners to hire with care.

Both Minnesota and North Dakota require construction contractors to be licensed before doing any work.

Neither state requires service companies, such as carpet cleaning firms, to be licensed.

Fargo does not require service firms such as cleaning businesses to be licensed, said Sharon Plecity, deputy city auditor.

The same is true in Moorhead, said Kaye Buchholz, city clerk.

“We’ve been asking those businesses to fill out a registration form,” said Buchholz, that lists where city officials can contact them.

Contractors must be licensed in Minnesota, according to the Department of Labor and Industry.

Before hiring a contractor, homeowners should ask for their license number and call (651) 284-5069 or (800) 657-3944 to verify licensure and determine if the contractor has had any disciplinary history, DLI recommends.

North Dakota doesn’t license service companies but requires building contractors to be licensed, said Secretary of State Al Jaeger.

“If they are doing any repairs to real property, they definitely need a contractor’s license from our office before they do anything,” Jaeger said.

Both Jaeger and Martin encourage use of local companies that are known and easy to obtain references from.

“There are a lot of good local resources that have been in the community for a long time,” said Martin.

That’s not to say that all cleanup firms coming from outside Fargo-Moorhead are not reputable, he said.

“You’ve got people that are just kind of hovering and waiting to swoop in,” said Grieman.

“I hate to say that, because you have so many good people out there doing the right thing. But it’s just kind of inevitable that along with all the good people you are going to get the bad,” Grieman said.

“You’re going to have the storm chasers that are going to be looking to do repairs. You’re going to have people that will be looking for donations,” Grieman said.

The key, she said, is to be prepared for it and make sure that they are legitimate.

Avoiding scams

Flood repair tips:

  • Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota: www.thefirstbbb.org or call (800) 646-6222 or (651) 699-1111.

Contractor licensure:


Readers can reach Forum Business Editor Craig McEwen at (701) 241-5502

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