May 25, 2010, Milwaukee, Wis. – The Wisconsin Better Business Bureau is warning consumers to be careful of unethical paving contractors this summer, after receiving numerous complaints about companies scamming homeowners.
In the past year, the BBB has received 43 complaints from Wisconsinites against paving companies, up from 36 complaints in the previous year. Many of these complaints involve homeowners who were approached by company representatives and offered a “deal” on their driveway repair or repaving because the company happened to be in the neighborhood and had leftover asphalt. However, according to the complainants, the work was shoddy and/or incomplete.
According to one metro-Milwaukee business owner, he was approached by one paving company and told, “We are working on Forest Home (Avenue) & we have a little asphalt left over. I noticed your asphalt needs attention." The business owner agreed to have the company patch a few areas of his parking lot. But, according to his BBB complaint, the company tried to repave the entire parking lot at a much higher than the agreed-upon price.
In another case, a Slinger man came home one day and found employees from a paving company parked in his driveway, offering to patch and seal his driveway at a discounted rate. Although the work was performed, he was charged more than the agreed upon price and complained to the BBB about the quality of the work and how the company would not return his phone calls.
“Don’t be fooled by companies who claim to have leftover materials and will give you a deal,” said Randall Hoth, president/CEO of the Wisconsin BBB. “It’s a common sales ploy that makes homeowners believe they’re getting a great deal, when they’re not.”
In other cases, paving companies were hired to perform work, but when the homeowner paid 100% of the price upfront, the company never returned to do the work.
One Mequon homeowner hired a company to repave his driveway and, because he had to leave town for the weekend, left a check under his front door mat. When he returned on Monday, the check was gone but the work was never started, according to his BBB complaint.
If you will be hiring a paving contractor this summer, the Wisconsin BBB offers this advice:
Get the company’s name and location. Get the name and address of the company and do your research. Check the business out at www.bbb.org. Be aware that many out-of-state contractors target a community during the summer and may be difficult to reach later if there’s a problem with their work. Often times, they’ll give a “local” address that is really the address of the local motel where they’re staying.
Don’t pay in full. You should never pay more than ½ of the cost of a job before the work is complete. Only pay the balance of the bill after you’ve inspected and are satisfied with the contractor’s work.
Get it in writing. Ensure all details and verbal promises are included in a contract. Review it and make sure that you understand everything in the document. Never sign a contract with sections left blank.
Check for qualifications. Verify the individual is licensed, bonded and insured.
Make checks payable to the company. Do not pay in cash and do not make checks payable to an individual, only the company.
Avoid "Bait and switch" tactics. Some disreputable companies will offer low prices initially, but then charge more claiming that they used more material than expected, or the job was more complicated than originally thought. Have everything in writing and know the terms in advance.
Remember to cool off if there’s pressure. Do not be pressured by any person if you are unsure. Take the time to do your due diligence. If you did sign a contract and change your mind, Wisconsin law states that if it was a door-to-door sales contract then you have 3 days to cancel (as long as the work hasn’t started).
For more information or further inquiries, please contact the Wisconsin BBB at www.wisconsin.bbb.org or 414-847-6000 (metro Milwaukee), (920)-734-4352 (Appleton) or 1-800-273-1002 (elsewhere in Wisconsin).