A rash of complaints regarding home improvement projects has prompted the California Contractors State Licensing Board to issue a warning about deceptive practices.
The CSLB is urging consumers to be aware of home improvement offers by individuals who use unethical business practices to gain entry into their homes, and then use illegal, high-pressure sales or scare tactics to up-sell unneeded services or equipment. Many of the complaints CSLB is receiving are from older adults who are falling victim to unscrupulous operators who make promises of low-cost equipment service over the phone, only to have onsite technicians make false statements that persuade them to increase their purchase. Only the licensed contractor or salespeople for a contracting company who are registered with CSLB are authorized to sell additional services or work.
"Service advertisements are common from the heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning industry, especially during hot or cold weather," said CSLB Registrar Steve Sands. "We're noticing a significant number of consumer complaints related to this sector, but we also believe it's important to protect and uphold the reputation of more than 11,000 licensed and honest contractors in the HVAC industry and other trades."
In one case, an elderly woman was persuaded to sign over her home to the company. In a different case, an older property owner was convinced that all of her home's ductwork needed replacing but, when a second opinion was obtained, it was determined that repair work was unnecessary.
The CSLB advises consumers to:
• Be wary of telemarketers offering special deals for air duct cleaning or seasonal HVAC tune-ups. Many are calling from "boiler room" operations or call centers that pretend to be different types of service and repair companies, and make multiple calls until a homeowner takes the bait for a service call.
• Always ask for the state contractor license number before considering any offer.
• Make informed decisions about hiring a contractor or company by first checking CSLB's website and review the contractor's detail page to assure the license is in good standing.
• If you're not sure about a company's offer, get a second opinion from a different, licensed contractor or company.
• Talk to your utility company to verify the accuracy of costs and potential savings the telemarketer offers for HVAC systems.
• Make sure the contract contains the notice about the three-day right to cancel.
CSLB encourages consumers to always "Check The License First" by visiting www.cslb.ca.gov or calling CSLB's toll-free automated line: 800.321.CSLB (2757).