COLUMBUS — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine today warned consumers about spring home improvement scams, while stressing the importance of researching contractors to help ensure their reliability.
“Warmer weather brings more door-to-door home improvement sales, and consumers should remain cautious,” Attorney General DeWine said. “Don’t be pressured into a decision on the spot. It’s best for you to research both the reputation of the business and the individual contractor first. Too often we see an individual contractor who is operating under different company names.”
In November 2013, the Attorney General’s Office announced a lawsuit against Thomas Huber, Jr. of Huber’s Tree Care for multiple violations of Ohio’s consumer laws, including failure to deliver and unfair and deceptive business practices. Recent complaints filed with the Attorney General’s Office suggest that Huber continues to violate Ohio law using several different business names, including Capital Tree Service (3), Tree Doctor (4), and most recently, Word of Mouth Tree Care (2). Complaints allege that consumers paid Huber for services that he never provided.
Consumers should take the following steps to protect themselves in home improvement transactions:
Check with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and the Better Business Bureau to determine if complaints are on file against the company.
Conduct general Internet searches using the company’s name and the individual’s name.
Ask the contractor to provide references of past customers and check those references.
Be skeptical of businesses that show up to your door unexpectedly. You have a three-day right to cancel most door-to-door sales, and businesses must give you written notice of your right to cancel.
Do not provide full payment up front. Pay when work is finished or for portions of work as they are completed. For example, it’s reasonable to pay for one-third in the beginning, one-third in the middle, and the final third upon satisfactory completion. Such agreement for payment terms should also be in the written contract.
The Ohio Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Section has filed five home improvement lawsuits so far in 2014 against contractors believed to be violating the Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act.
In the past year, the Section has received 1,587 complaints about contractors who do everything from roofing, windows, and paving to floors, gutters, and decks.
Consumers who believe they have been treated unfairly should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov or 800-282-0515.