What to avoid when cleaning up after the storms

Insurance Federation of Minnesota says to watch out for “storm chaser contractors” often located outside Minnesota.

MINNEAPOLIS — From south to north Minneapolis, Marvin Applewhite and his crew cleaned up several yards after Wednesday night’s powerful storm for free. Applewhite owns Blueline Cleaning Company and Debris Removal and is founder of nonprofit Getting Out the Rut, Building a Better Future.

“I look forward to getting out and seeing what can I do to improve the community,” he said. “We’re just trying to help out. That’s all.”

“They’re doing some very important work that can be very expensive,” said Mark Kulda, vice president of public affairs for Insurance Federation of Minnesota.

Kulda says cutting down storm-damaged trees can cost $1,500-$2,000 per tree but says most homeowners insurance policies should cover the cost. Insurance should also cover repairs to your home.

“What it doesn’t cover is removing the tree,” Kulda said.

That means you need to find a company to haul away the mess. Kulda says it’s important to do some research before signing a contract.

“Be weary of the people who will call you or they’ll text you or they’ll hit you up on social media,” he said. “They’ll go door-to-door, knocking on your door. You have to be really careful of many of those contractors because some of them are very unscrupulous.”

He says such companies are often located out of state and may offer to pay your insurance deductible, which sounds like a good deal. However, it’s illegal in Minnesota.

“The people that will come to your home, they’ll try to upsell you,” Kulda said. “They’ll tell you that there’s more damage than what looks apparent. Sometimes, these contractors will ask for an upfront payment of money so that they can go to get some supplies. That’s a warning sign.”

He says the best thing to do is contact your insurance right away to see what’s covered. Then, take photos or videos of all damage. And when you hire, hire local, reputable contractors.

Or maybe Applewhite will lend a hand.

“Majority, the elderly people that can’t pick up wood,” he said. “Stuff like that. Or probably don’t have the finances to chop it down.”