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Area Residents Cautioned After Hail Storm

By Staff | Apr 20, 2010

In today’s society, there is a faction that lives to take advantage of others who are down on their luck or suffering from some type of misfortune. That element of society seems to have arrived locally following the hailstorm experienced in the county last week.

Both the Emmetsburg Police Department and the Palo Alto County Sheriff’s Office are cautioning area residents to be aware of individuals coming into the area under the guise of repairing hail damage to homes.

“In the past few days, we have been receiving reports from homeowners of people coming to their homes offering to inspect roofs for hail damage,” noted Emmetsburg Police Chief Eric Hanson. “Unfortunately, some of these individuals are only out to scam the homeowner with shoddy repairs or work that really doesn’t even need to be done.”

The tactic is fairly simple: a contractor knocks on a homeowner’s door, and offers to check out the roof, perhaps noting a couple of shingles look like they were loose. Soon, the contractor reports back, usually pointing out that there’s a lot more damage than he first thought, and that the homeowner needs to fix the damage right away before it becomes worse. Using these ‘scare tactics’, the contractor then performs some work, if any is done at all, and then charges an exorbitant fee for the work. The homeowner pays and the contractor is long gone before it is discovered that what ever was done either wasn’t needed, or wasn’t effective. Either way, the homeowner is out their money.

In the city of Emmetsburg, any contractor that goes door-to-door to solicit work must obtain an Itinerant Business Permit, or “peddlers” permit. In order to obtain such a permit in Emmetsburg, the contractor must provide proof of insurance, as well as proof of bonding or be able to prove they can be bonded to city officials. If they are unable to meet those provisions, by ordinance, they cannot legally conduct business in the community.

Similar regulations and requirements can be found in many communities throughout the region, and any homeowner who is approached by an individual wanting to inspect for damage and offer to do repairs, should check the contractor out immediately with their local city offices, or with their nearest law enforcement agency.

“We would strongly encourage everyone to not sign anything or enter into any kind of agreement with a contractor who knocks on your door without thoroughly checking them out,” urged Todd Suhr, Chief Deputy of the Palo Alto County Sheriff’s Office. “If one of these contractors comes to your door and begins to pressure you to have work done, don’t hesitate to contact our office or your local police. It is your choice whether any work is done, not the contractors.”

A good rule of thumb to follow is to contact a local contractor that the homeowner is familiar with, and not to deal with people who appear at their doorsteps. The old adage of “if it sounds too good to be true, than it probably isn’t” is a good yardstick to follow.

“We want area residents to be aware that this element is out there and is trying to ply their trade locally,” Hanson noted. “If anyone has a question on a potential contract, we urge them to contact their respective city hall or local law enforcement. They can also check on contractors through the Better Business Bureau as well when they are from outside the immediate area.”