Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

More Woes for Tornado Victims Homeowners Gouged by Inflated Rates

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

More Woes for Tornado Victims Homeowners Gouged by Inflated Rates

Article excerpt

More than a week after his house and storage sheds were

rip-sawed by Jacksonville's recent tornado, Richard Kwasniewski

is as irritated by what he calls unscrupulous contractors as he

is about the damage he is trying to repair.

"They go rent a chain saw for 40 bucks and come out here and

want to cut a tree down in a day and haul it away and charge you

a thousand bucks," he said. "These contractors come in here and

want to rake you over the coals."

Gail Walker, whose husband, Robert, operates the family's B&G

Tree Cutting, said some people hit by the storm panicked in the

aftermath. She said jobs her company does regularly for $350

were being bid as high as $2,500 by people looking to make quick

money.

"A lot of people came in from out of town and did those trees,"

she said.

Jim Maddox, owner of American Tree Surgeons, said homeowners

need to be sure contractors are properly insured for liability.

Fly-by-night contractors usually won't have adequate coverage,

he said. "They really take advantage of people who are in

trouble."

Trouble arrived the evening of Feb. 2 when a squall-spawned

tornado touched down on the Westside, causing major damage to

four homes and lesser problems for another 61. About 30,000

customers of Jacksonville Electric Authority were without power

at one point. Electricity was returned to almost all by the next

night.

Last week, the city's Emergency Preparedness Service estimated

damages at $2.8 million, including $2.5 million to businesses

and $320,000 to homes.

Kwasniewski said that not long after the storm, he had a fistful

of business cards from contractors canvassing his Lexington

Avenue neighborhood for work. Many wanted two or three times

what his insurance company was willing to pay for roof repairs

or removal of the tree that crashed into two backyard sheds. …

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