Leaders urge caution with transient contractors

Transient contractors may be looking to take advantage of homeowners after the storm Monday, Fort Dodge Mayor Matt Bemrich said Wednesday afternoon.

The contractors, many coming from other states, are going to door-to-door asking for money down to repair storm damage.

“People with lower morals will prey on folks in our community and surrounding communities,” Bemrich said. “You should never have to pay money down for estimates.”

Some contractors are claiming they represent insurance companies as well.

In order to work legally as a contractor in Fort Dodge, transient contractors must have a solicitor license, a transient merchant license and be a registered contractor with the city.

Being a registered contractor ensures that they are also bonded.

Contractors who go door-to-door should be able show these documents to their potential customers before doing any work.

If they can’t, it could be a scam, said Bemrich.

They may also try to fix roofs that don’t need to be fixed.

If they start working on a roof before an insurance company has looked at it, there’s no way for the insurance company to know if it actually needed work done or not.

“Don’t let anyone pressure you into a decision,” Fort Dodge Police Chief Tim Carmody said.

If a contractor does not have the required local licenses – or if they appear suspicious, Carmody said to call the police at 573-2323 as soon as possible.

He said to get as much information about the contractor as possible: who they are, where they are and what they are doing.

This will help police in their investigations, he said.

Bemrich suggested not using using transient contractors to repair homes.

“The safest thing you can do is open up a phone book and call someone local,” Bemrich said.

He explained that because they will likely have a local storefront, they will be unlikely to do anything to harm their reputation with local customers.

Bemrich also said it’s a good idea for homeowners to call their insurance companies first. The companies will send adjustors, who generally offer good advice and know reliable contractors.

The insurance company can also verify that there was actually damage that needs repaired.

“As long as it’s not leaking, it probably doesn’t need repaired right away,” Carmody said.

Most companies usually allow claims for anywhere from six months to one year, said Chad Schaeffer, director of engineering, business affairs and community growth in Fort Dodge.

They all suggest taking some time and researching contractors before having any work done.

It’s unknown how many roofs were damaged from the storm earlier in the week, but they said local contractors should be able to handle it.

Not only will this keep money in the local economy, but it’s safer, Bemrich said.

“Using a local contractor will save a lot of headaches,” Bemrich said. “They have a front door you can get to to talk about any issues.”

Transient contractors will leave town as soon as they do the work and may not be heard of again, he said.

Bemrich also expects dent removal tents to start appearing around town – and the surrounding area – because many vehicles sustained hail damage Monday.

He suggested being just as careful with people who operate under these tents.

“These folks know to profit from these storms,” he said.