Consumer Alert: Officials urge caution before signing a storm damage cleanup contract

Officials say do your research before signing a storm damage cleanup contract
Published: Jun. 23, 2022 at 7:48 PM EDT
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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA) - Last week’s Derecho is behind us, but the clean-up efforts are still well underway across 21Country. Whitley County officials say residents suffered so much damage, that they are scrambling to find help removing all the downed trees.

They are warning everyone to do their homework before signing a contract.

Whitley County Commissioner Theresa Baysinger says a staff member brought her concerning information about Canary Tree Service after a representative with the company attended a meeting in the county a few days after the storm. “My employee then did more research and we found upsetting information from state attorneys general as well as the Better Business Bureau,” she says.

This isn’t the first time government officials have raised a flag. Just last month, the Michigan Attorney General’s Office sent a letter to Justin Hartmann with Canary Tree Service directing him to “immediately cease and desist from engaging in unlawful business practices” that the office outlined in the letter. The letter details complaints from consumers. In one case a customer’s insurance company got an invoice for more than $25,000. The office says it consulted an experienced arborist who estimated the job should have cost around $6,000.

ABC21 Contacted Hartmann, who wouldn’t agree to an interview. Instead, he emailed his response. He says the company has “never been found to have price gouged and does not practice price gouging.”

He specifically addressed the letter from Michigan’s Department of Attorney General. “We understand the Attorney General has a job to do. Some insurance companies wanted to avoid paying for the job we did to help their homeowners get access to their homes and restore normalcy. We gave the Michigan AG a detailed response and are working with the AG to address the insurance company smears,” he writes. “We are proud of the work we have done in Michigan.” His response goes on to say he believes the Michigan Attorney General will “that Canary delivers in crises and does exactly what it says.”

We haven’t seen any evidence of wrongdoing by the company in Whitley County, but government officials there want to make sure consumers thoroughly research who they hire, and carefully read anything they sign.

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