(COLUMBUS, Ohio) — Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost is suing a central Ohio home landscaping contractor and his partners for allegedly swindling more than $130,000 from homeowners who made payments for decks that were never built.
The ringleader, Daryl Allen, was previously in trouble with the Attorney General’s Office for shoddy home-improvement work and had been prohibited from doing business. To get around that, Allen teamed with two men who registered new deck-building companies with the Ohio Secretary of State, according to the lawsuit.
“Name changes don’t make bad business practices disappear,” Yost said. “My Consumer Protection Section is here to safeguard homeowners from these scammers.”
Allen, Bernard Crist and Shane Bates, all defendants in the lawsuit, offered deck-building services through two companies they operated – Good News Builders and Columbus Deck Co. LLC.
The lawsuit stems from 12 unresolved complaints – one against Columbus Deck Co. and 11 against Good News Builders – submitted to Yost’s Consumer Protection Section and the Better Business Bureau (BBB). In those complaints, consumers detail financial losses totaling $132,139.80 after contracting with and paying the defendants for work as early as September 2020.
Allen, Crist and Bates are accused of violating the Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act by accepting money from consumers and failing to deliver the promised goods and services or performing shoddy work and failing to correct it. In one instance, no work was preformed at all.
Likewise, the defendants also violated the Ohio Home Solicitations Sales Act by failing to provide consumers with proper notice of the three-day right of rescission.
Allen has a history of setting up a new company after consumers complain to the Attorney General’s Office and BBB.
In December 2019, Yost’s Consumer Protection Section filed a lawsuit against Allen and his company, Deck Builders Unlimited, over similar violations. In January 2021, the court prohibited Allen from doing business until he paid more than $47,000 in consumer damages and a $50,000 civil penalty to the Attorney General’s Office. To date, Allen has not paid either.
The state’s filing seeks an order requiring the defendants to reimburse customers and pay civil penalties and court costs. It also requests an order preventing the defendants from engaging in business as a supplier in any consumer transactions in Ohio until those debts are paid.
Yost reminds consumers to take the following steps before signing a contract for home-improvement services:
- Check with the Attorney General’s Office and BBB for any complaints against the contractor.
- Make sure your contract includes notice of your right to cancel a door-to-door sale. Contractors generally cannot start working until the three-day “cooling-off” period ends.
- Get written estimates from several contractors before making a final decision.
- Check to make sure that the written contract includes any verbal promises, the start and end dates, and an itemized list of all significant costs, labor and services.
- Be wary if the contract requires a large down payment or requires that you write a check directly to the contractor instead of his or her company.
- Check with the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office to confirm that the business is registered properly.
Ohioans who suspect unfair business practices should contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at www.OhioProtects.org or 800-282-0515.