Berea family, BBB issue warning about transient ‘fly-by-night’ contractors

BEREA, Ohio — Brad Jones is relieved his 97-year-old mother is safe and sound after he said a door-to-door contractor showed up at his mother’s Berea home and offered to seal-coat and repair her blacktop driveway.

Jones said the contractor offered to do the job for under $400 but then just minutes into the job, quickly escalated the price.

“They noticed the condition of our driveway and they offered their services,” Jones said.

“But then they very quickly realized, oh my goodness this driveway is really soaking up so much of this product, we’re going to need far more than this. So their estimate was starting to get into the $1,300 range.”

“In addition to the growing price, they sprayed the driveway with what looks like black spray paint and didn’t address the ruts in the least, all they did was just spray.”

Jones said his mother was frightened by the entire ordeal and said they were later able to talk the contractor down to just $750.

Cleveland Better Business Bureau President Sue McConnell told News 5 now is the season for questionable, transient contractors to be going door-to-door trying to exploit unsuspecting homeowners.

“They’ll tell you I’m doing work in the neighborhood, we have a great deal, you need to make up your mind right now,” McConnell said.

“They start really pressuring you to give them more money and they’re really looking to be paid in cash. They don’t want you to take time to research their company, to get other estimates, they’ll convince you that you’re not going to be able to beat this deal.”

“They tend to hit a neighborhood and move on to the next. They never get the proper permits to solicit door-to-door.”

McConnell is urging homeowners to never make a quick decision when it comes to home improvement projects.

“Research companies, get estimates from well-established local businesses that have good reputations,” McConnell said.

“Look at the warranties, ask for customer references, make sure they have the required registration with your city hall.”

“The company involved in the Berea case has an email address, but it doesn’t work, they have a phone number, it’s always busy, they are also falsely claiming to be BBB accredited.”

The Ohio Attorney General’s office confirmed the ongoing issue statewide and issued the following warning in response to our story:

“Before signing a contract or making a payment, check a company’s reputation with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office [ohioattorneygeneral.gov] and the Better Business Bureau [bbb.org]. Conduct an internet search for the business and the names of individuals involved.

  • Do not make a large down payment. Instead, pay in increments – for example, one-third at the beginning of the job, one-third after half of the work is completed to your satisfaction and one-third when the job is completed.
  • Avoid paying in cash. It leaves you with a limited paper trail if something goes wrong.
  • Get all promises in writing.
  • Be cautious of contractors who want payment made out to themselves as individuals, instead of a company.
  • Understand that Ohio’s Home Solicitation Sales Act provides consumers with a three-day cancellation period for most contracts signed at their own home. The law also applies to contracts signed at any location that is not a company’s normal place of business (such as a home improvement show).
  • Look for the red flags of a traveling scam artist. If a contractor claims to have leftover materials from a nearby job or offers unbelievably low prices, be suspicious.

Consumers who suspect a scam or an unfair business practice should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioProtects.org [ohioprotects.org] or 800-282-0515.”