Columbus, OH – Spring has sprung, and along with the warmer weather comes home improvement season. BBB is encouraging homeowners to do their homework ahead of time when looking to hire a contractor to tackle their home improvement projects to avoid situations like these:
Owners of Westerville Heating & Cooling LLC, Douglas and Melissa Martin, have been indicted by the Franklin County Grand Jury on charges including theft, identity fraud, and misuse of credit cards. BBB’s investigation recently revealed that according to the Franklin County Prosecutor’s office, customers would pay their bills with a credit card, then later the Martins would use the credit cards without authorization. The case was set to be heard in Franklin County Common Pleas Court on April 12, 2017.
According to the Ohio Construction Industry Licensing Board Douglas Martin’s HVAC and Refrigeration licenses are “Active in Renewal”.
Consumers who hired Life Time Construction were asked to pay thousands upfront for remodeling projects. A woman from Columbus, Ohio said she was asked to pay $12,400 for kitchen cabinets from Home Depot, but when she called Home Depot, she learned they had never been ordered. A man from Ashland, Kentucky was asked to pay $4,000 upfront, but Mark Holbrook, the owner of Life Time, has never returned to start the bathroom remodel. Life Time Construction has an F rating with BBB.
Mr. Holbrook was sued by the Ohio Attorney General in 2011 when he was doing business as Fastrack Construction for violations of the Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act, specifically accepting down payments from two consumers for various home improvement projects and failing to deliver the goods and services paid for, and failing to refund the down payments.
“Spring is prime time for home improvement projects, and BBB always advises consumers to do their research before hiring a contractor,” said Kip Morse, President/CEO of BBB serving Central Ohio. “It pains me to see social media posts of problems homeowners have and then I have to share that they could have seen it coming had they just checked with us first. We have created a variety of resources for consumers to easily find trustworthy businesses in our community, including our dedicated home improvement microsite, bbbhomehelp.com.”
BBB offers the following general advice for consumers:
Always check with BBB before doing business with any company to ensure they are reputable.
Verify if the contractor is properly licensed, bonded and has met insurance requirements in compliance with state regulations.
Obtain at least three written estimates or bids for the work you are planning.
Never sign a blank or partially completed contract.
Never pay for the entire job in advance or pay cash to a salesperson or contractor. Typically, a down payment of 30 to 50 percent of the total contract price is made before the work is started with remaining payments to be made after completion of each phase of work; final payment should not be made until work is completed and you have inspected the work.
Pay with a credit card. That way, you can dispute the charges under the Fair Credit Billing Act should the contractor fail to complete the job. Disputes must be filed within 60 days after the first bill containing the disputed charge.
For more than 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping people find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2016, people turned to BBB more than 167 million times for BBB Business Profiles on more than 5.2 million businesses and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free atbbb.org. There are local, independent BBBs across the United States, Canada and Mexico, including BBB Serving Central Ohio, which was founded in 1921 and serves 21 counties in Central Ohio.