Beware the driveway-paving scams

CONSUMER FORUM

By Russ Van Arsdale, Executive Director, Northeast CONTACT

Posted Sept. 22, 2013, at 1:15 p.m.

In the past few days, I’ve obtained some quotes for having my driveway sealed. It’s a job I had hoped to handle myself, but allergies in nature and too many petrochemical products have forced me to contract it out.

The more recent quotes are a bit higher than the first one I was given; they came from people at established businesses in the Bangor area. The first one came from a fellow I had never met who knocked at our door.

He said he had a deal for me; my radar is always on, but it kicked into high at once. He had been sealing a driveway in my neighborhood, he said, and he had a little sealer left over. He could give me a deal on my driveway – $250, and he could do the job that afternoon (it was a little after 2 pm when he made his pitch).

It seemed we could seal the deal on a handshake, no contract needed. I noticed the unmarked vehicle a companion waited in, and asked for a business card. The man didn’t have one but said he’d drop one off “in about an hour.” I haven’t seen him since.

Police are all too familiar with workers who claim to be professional pavers, while doing “hit and run” jobs that often leave residents less than satisfied. The materials they use may be substandard, and they sometimes hand homeowners a bill that’s a lot higher than the price that was quoted.

Such practices are not just poor business, they’re illegal. Now, I have no direct evidence that my visitor was trying to scam me; but he did not follow the three Maine laws that state that door-to-door sellers of home repairs must:

— Provide written contracts, which include a binding job estimate;

— Wait three days after the contract is signed before beginning work;

— Allow a buyer to opt out of the agreement during that three-day period.

If he was registered with the state, he did not offer to show me his registration. If he had a permanent place of business in the town in which he was doing business, his unmarked vehicle and lack of a business card did not reflect any attachment to the community.

Steer clear of anyone who tries to sell paving or sealing services door-to-door. Legitimate contractors know how much material they need for a given job, and they bring that material to the job and no more. There are no “leftovers” and no deals to be had because of them.

“They seem to come in waves,” Brewer’s Deputy Police Chief Jason Moffitt told me last week. “Don’t sign any contracts with people who just show up in your yard,” he advised. Take your time, check with known local companies, and keep an eye on older neighbors who might be targeted.

Visit the website of the Maine Attorney General (www.maine.gov/ag) and click on Consumer Law Guide for more on door-to-door sales and sales of home repairs and similar services.

Consumer Forum is a collaboration of the Bangor Daily News and Northeast CONTACT, Maine’s all-volunteer, nonprofit consumer organization. For assistance with consumer-related issues, including consumer fraud and identity theft, or for information, write Consumer Forum, P.O. Box 486, Brewer 04412, visit https://necontact.wordpress.com or email contacexdir@live.com.

 

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