As warm temperatures continue into late summer, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is warning consumers to beware of driveway paving scams and untrustworthy home improvement contractors.
“There are many home improvement contractors who do great work,” DeWine said. “Unfortunately, there are some who don’t. To protect themselves from potential scams, consumers should check out a contractor before making any payments, especially when the contractor comes to their door unexpectedly.”
Since June, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office has received more than 60 complaints involving asphalt, concrete, or paving. In about half of the complaints, the transactions began with a door-to-door visit. The average disputed amount for all the complaints is more than $3,000.
In their complaints, consumers list problems including shoddy resurfacing of a driveway, rough spots or cracks in concrete, driveways that are not level, improper drainage, ineffective sealing, and incomplete resurfacing.
To help protect themselves, consumers should follow these tips:
• Check contractors’ reputations by searching for complaints on file with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and the Better Business Bureau. Also do a basic Internet search of the business. Even if you don’t find complaints, don’t assume the contractor is reliable. Unscrupulous contractors and scam artists often change their business names regularly to trick unsuspecting consumers into handing over their hard-earned money.
• If a contractor tells you that he just completed a job nearby, has excess asphalt, and can give you a good deal, get the previous homeowner’s name and address and contact the homeowner yourself to verify the claim.
• Ask family and friends for recommendations of reliable contractors. Word-of-mouth recommendations are among the best ways to find reputable businesses. If possible, check out the work contractors have done for previous customers.
• Sometimes scammers will give you a verbal estimate prior to doing the work, but then charge two to three times more afterward. Get everything in writing. A written contract should include the contracted amount along with the contractor’s name, street address, and phone number. Consumers should be cautious of contractors who only provide a post office box or who claim to work for a company but want a check written to an individual.
• Don’t pay a large down payment or payment in full until the job is complete and you have been given an opportunity to inspect the work. Avoid paying in cash, if possible, because cash will leave you with little paper trail if something goes wrong.
Under Ohio’s Home Solicitation Sales Act, consumers have three days to cancel most contracts signed at their home. Door-to-door salespeople must notify consumers of their right to cancel and provide a cancellation form. Consumers should refuse to do business with door-to-door contractors who do not provide the cancellation form.
The Ohio Attorney General’s Office routinely takes legal action against businesses that make great promises, take consumers’ money, and then do no work or provide shoddy work.
Consumers who suspect unfair business practices should file a complaint with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at 800-282-0515 or www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov.