Subscribe by Email

Your email:

Trades Hub

Alltop, confirmation that we kick ass

Browse by Tag

Construction Risk Blog

Current Articles | RSS Feed RSS Feed

Winter Storm Alfred 2011 and Hiring Residential Contractors


connecticut halloween stormIf you have electricity and are reading this, congrats!  After the perfect combination of huge amounts of wet snow combined with trees still covered with leaves, many in the Northeast were left in the dark. In the State of Connecticut, now six days since the storm, 300,000 households are still operating without electricity.

In addition to finding someone to blame for the lack of power, there is the added concern of how you will get your home repaired, and how will you get all of these trees and branches out of your yard? (Some of the following statements are generalizations.  All homeowner's policies are different in the scope of what they cover.  Please contact your insurance agent or carrier for clarification.) If a tree or branch is touching, partially inside of, or sitting on top of your home, deck, porch, garage, fence, etc., your homeowner's insurance policy will most likely pay for the part of the tree to be removed from where it is and either chopped and thrown in the woods, or removed.  To clarify, trees lying in your yard are not covered, and will not be removed unless they are touching a covered structure.  I doubt we'll see it happen in the aftermath of the Halloween Storm of 2011, but certain claims can be denied if the homeowner was neglegent in protecting the property from further damage after the loss.

Getting back to the reason I started this post in the first place was to warn homeowners about shady contractors.  If you live in an area with significant tree damage, and widespread power outages, you should consider yourself the prey of contractors. There are still plenty of reputable contractors pounding the pavement and knocking on doors asking to help with repairs.  With that in mind, here's a few things to ask and look for, if and when someone comes knocking.

Ask them to provide a certificate of insurance that lists both General Liability and Workers' Compensation.  If they balk on this request or say they "will get it to you", consider that your biggest red flag.  Any legitimate contractor will have this documentation with them.  All of the contractors that have contracts with insurance companies to do repair and restoration work carry these coverages.  If they don't have these coverages, YOUR homeowner's policy or YOU personally could be stuck paying for any additional damage, or on the job injuries that happen. If the contractor does shoddy work, there is no coverage for completed operations either.

Workers' compensation laws in Connecticut add an interesting twist to the certificate of insurance angle.  By state law, a sole proprietor of an LLC is legally allowed to exclude themselves from carrying workers' comp.  However, they are in violation of this if they bring anyone on the jobsite to help them.  Look at the scope of the work, and ask yourself if a single person would be able to remove a 400 pound branch from the roof of your two-story house without any assistance.  What I'm getting it, is if they say they don't have to carry it, but have a helper with them, look for alternatives.  (Link to another post I wrote about this)

In a perfect world, every contractor would carry the right kinds of insurance and be on the up and up, but due to the scope of damge, in addition to delays by insurance companies sending out their own contractors to do the work, here are a few suggestions to find a reputable contractor to help with your storm cleanup.  (These are just opinions, and have no basis on the laws of Connecticut or the views of my employer)

Does their vehicle have a company name on it?

Does the person who is doing the 'estimating' have a business card with an email address or office phone #?

If yes, does this business card have their contractor license # on it?

What happens when you Google their company name?

Does their company have a website, or any legitimate online presence?  

Are they listed on Angie's list or  

Are their reviews positive?

Do they have a list of testimonials from other customers?

Are they wearing hardhats or safety glasses?

Do they have an OSHA 10 card in their wallet? (not required for residential contractors to have, but if they do, at least you know that they are up to date on safety regulations)


Lastly, those are just a few things to keep in mind if someone comes asking if they can help clean up after Winter Storm Alfred. My aim wass not to dump on residential contractors, it was aimed to help homeowners protect themselves, and some loose suggestions for hiring reputable contractors to repair storm damaged homes and to remove trees and debris from their yards.  I know that the residential construction segment isn't setting any records right now, but I also know that the homeowner could be liable for a lot more than they bargained for when hiring an uninsured guy with a chainsaw and a pickup truck.

Please comment if you have any suggestions, or are a Connecticut contractor that is able to help folks get their lives and property back in order.


Question: I am a college student and I bought a chainsaw the day after the storm. I went door to door and helped people clean up some of the downed branches. Some people have asked me if I am licensed and insured, which I would not lie about and told them; I do not have and LLC or any other insurance than my own personal medical. My intentions are not to scam anyone or sue anyone, and would not perform any work where there would be any risk for property damage or put myself into any dangerous situation (other than the inherent risk of use of a chainsaw). My question is this; legally, am I allowed to help people clean up their yards for $, and is there anything I can do to alleviate homeowners that if something did occur (mostly injury, but perhaps property damage as well) that I would be held accountable? I had heard that in the times after the storm, one did not need a license in CT to operate, which is how out of state companies are able to come in and assist? Can anyone advise me on this? Thanks!
Posted @ Saturday, November 26, 2011 3:16 PM by Ryan G
Post Comment
Website (optional)

Allowed tags: <a> link, <b> bold, <i> italics