By Catherine Blinder
This early spring has brought early-blooming flowers, warm weather, longer days and unfortunately, door-to-door scammers who try to take advantage of homeowners in a variety of ways. It seems like there are more every year – chimney repairs, magazine subscriptions, alternative energy contracts, lawn mowing and landscaping, house painting, roofers and gutter installers and the subject of this column – traveling pavers.
Even a relatively easy winter like the one we just experienced can leave driveways cracked and uneven.
But the choice to repair should be your decision, on your schedule and with your full understanding of the agreement between you and the paving company or contractor.
If someone comes to your door offering to repair or repave your driveway, telling you that in order to get a discounted price, you must pay in cash and have it done immediately, say no. And don’t let anyone in your home unless you know who they are.
Traveling pavers often target elderly residents, pushing inferior driveway paving and sealing services for much less than legitimate pavers can charge. But sometimes the sealants they use disappear with the first rain.
Crews often drive unmarked trucks and vans; their salespersons go door to door and their sales pitch usually involves “leftover” asphalt from a nearby job that’s available immediately, at a bargain price. Other hallmarks of the paving scam include high-pressure sales tactics, confusing contracts and a request for payment in cash or a personal check made out to cash.
Known for striking quickly and then disappearing, traveling pavers can appear days later in a different area, making them difficult to catch. Local police departments and the Department of Consumer Protection share information and often collaborate in tracking leads called in by smart consumers.
In May of 2015, the Danbury Police Department received a fraud complaint from a 91-year-old resident. The homeowner told the police that he had come home and found workers in the process of cleaning the driveway. The workers told him that his wife had hired them to seal and resurface the driveway. The victim paid $2,750 to the workers and later learned that his wife had not agreed to the work and had never signed a contract with the pavers. Upon inspection, it was determined that the driveway was not repaired or resealed; instead, a very small amount of a substandard sealant was applied.
Danbury Police detectives contacted the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection. Through a joint investigation, it was determined that there were eight cases in the area dating back to 2012. Of the eight cases, five victims were over the age of 60 years old. The investigation determined that the work done was unprofessional; resulting in asphalt coming apart shortly after work was completed.
Three people were charged, and they are scheduled to appear in court: Legrande Cooper Jr. of New Milford, CT, Kayla Cooper of Cairo, New York and Coty Cooper of Balston Spa, NY.
After the investigation and the arrests, Commissioner Jonathan A. Harris announced, “The Department of Consumer Protection (DCP) continues to work with local law enforcement to remove anyone from the market who uses the guise of home improvement to cover criminal activity. Targeting elderly and other vulnerable populations is a particularly cruel act, but through a joint investigation with the Danbury Police Department, we have been able to remove these predatory scammers from the market and send a strong warning to others that actions like this are criminal and will be investigated and brought to court.”
Here are a few tips to help you make smart choices:
- Find a local paving contractor if your driveway needs repair; talk to friends, family and neighbors for referrals.
- Verify that the contractor is registered in Connecticut as a home improvement contractor by contacting the Department of Consumer Protection.
- Check with your town for any required permits, and have them in place before work begins.
- Have your contractor provide all warranties and guarantees in writing.
- Always get a signed and dated contract for paving work, with all of the language required by law, since it will protect you from potential damages or misunderstandings.
- You have a three-day notice of cancellation that allows you to change your mind; make sure you know how to contact the company to cancel if you want.
To verify a contractor’s registration, and see the requirements for home improvement contracts, please visit the Department of Consumer Protection website at www.ct.gov/dcp or call the agency at (860) 713-6110, toll-free at 1-800-842-2649.
To file a complaint, you can email the Department at firstname.lastname@example.org. For other questions, call the hotline at 860.713.6300.
This article was written by Catherine Blinder, chief education and outreach officer of the Department of Consumer Protection of the State of Connecticut. To learn more about how the Department of Consumer Protection can help, visit us online at www.ct.gov/dcp.