Less than solid concrete workers, watch out. Beware, bottom of the barrel black toppers. Tree cutters that just don’t cut it — Carl Alber is watching.
Alber is Dallas Township’s zoning and code enforcement officer, with an extra emphasis on “enforcement.” To protect residents from being swindled by shoddy work, Alber told me he requests that any and all contractors working in Dallas Township provide their proof of insurance.
When I asked him this week why he made such an effort, he didn’t mince words.
“I don’t want to see the people get scammed,” Alber told me, adding that at least 40 new homes and several more businesses had been built in the nearly four years he’s been at the helm in Dallas Township.
In a region with its fair share of say-nothing, do-even-less public officials, Alber’s effort to safeguard residents was refreshing to hear.
Alber doesn’t just talk the talk, either. Most days, he drives around the nearly 19-square-mile Luzerne County township checking for contractors he doesn’t recognize because, he explained, he sometimes sees things that give him cause for concern.
Take last year.
After parts of the township were ravaged by a bout of brutal weather in the Back Mountain, Alber said he made it a point to visit homeowners that suffered downed trees, warning them to watch out for under-qualified, uninsured opportunists looking to make a quick buck cleaning up the mess.
Then, just last week in nearby Harveys Lake, he caught wind of a major blunder after a man working to remove a tree outside a residence dropped it on the couple’s home.
According to a post on the township’s Facebook page, the man issued fliers proclaiming he was “experienced, bonded and insured,” but those claims may have just been phony posturing after the contractor ended up in court for allegedly dropping more than just the ball.
Similar complaints involving home improvements or repairs are among the top subjects of calls to the Office of Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, which outline the following tips for avoiding such scams:
• Always request a certificate of insurance.
• Make sure you have a written contract explaining guarantees, warranties, the price of labor and materials, and the contractor’s registration number and contact information.
• Verify the contractor on the Home Improvement Contractor Search feature on the Office of Attorney General’s website.
The Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act (HICPA) requires all contractors who perform $5,000 or more in home improvements in a year to register with the Office of Attorney General. Contractors must re-register every two years.
• Don’t do business with contractors who show up out of nowhere at your door and point out problems with your home or offer deals that sound too good to be true.
When in doubt, Alber said it can’t hurt to contact your local zoning officer. Or, if you live in Dallas Township, just wait for him to drive by.