How to avoid price gouging with contractors

Here is a heads up for anyone who has had to hire a contractor during an emergency. If you are not careful, you could fall victim to price gouging.

When you are faced with a serious situation, such as a flood, or other catastrophes, you may not have time to be shopping around for the best price. But, you should also not expect to be gouged for the products or services that you need during a critical time. Before you allow work to begin, try to get more than estimates from reputable contractors. If you do not know where to turn, try to stay local, and get a referral from your insurance agent or a realtor. These professionals are often very connected within your community and know who will do a good job at a fair price.

In most circumstances, contractors are limited to no more than 15 percent above their usual charges during a declared emergency.

If you had to hire someone during a crisis, it might be a good idea to do some comparison shopping afterward. If you believe that you were not charged a fair price, explain this to your contractor and ask them to lower their bill. If you are not able to get them to work with you, contact consumer agencies like the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection or the Better Business Bureau. You can also contact our call for action office for help.

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