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The California Contractors State License Board urged consumers this week to be alert for 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.
“Service advertisements are common from the heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning industry, especially during hot or cold weather,” CSLB Registrar Steve Sands said in a written statement. “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.”
CSLB officials said many of the complaints they are receiving come from senior citizens. Many are falling victim to unscrupulous operators who make promises of lowcost equipment service over the phone, only to have onsite technicians make false statements that persuade them to increase their purchase.
In one case, the CSLB said an elderly woman was persuaded to sign over her home to the company. In another, an older property owner was convinced that all of her home’s ductwork needed replacing, when it didn’t.
The CSLB warns property owners 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.
It is equally important for consumers to pay attention to the work contract. If your home’s operating systems happen to fail and you call a company for immediate service, remember that your three-day right to cancel the contract is different depending on if it is a service and repair contract or a standard home improvement contract.
For more information about service and repair contracts and/or standard home improvement contracts, visit the CSLB website, www.cslb. ca.gov,or by call 800-321-CSLB (2752). You also can sign up for CSLB email alerts.