HALIFAX – Now that summer weather has finally arrived, it is the time of year that many of us think about paving or re-paving our driveways. However, it’s also the time of year when we must be careful of fly-by-night paving companies that offer limited time prices that in some cases are too good to be true.
Better Business Bureau serving the Atlantic Provinces is cautioning consumers about shady paving companies, and the improper tactics they use. This industry receives a significant number of inquiries – over 12,000 in the past year. BBB was recently prompted to investigate this area of business after receiving several calls from consumers who felt they were misled by certain paving companies.
There are common threads in the approach. Consumers see or receive marketing materials offering a reduced price on paving services for a limited time. Upon contacting the paving company, homeowners are offered a quote at a very good price – almost too good. A written contract or estimate is provided, which outlines all the work to be done, and even includes a guarantee of the services rendered. This documentation typically offers some assurance to consumers, but unfortunately not always.
Clients are asked for a deposit in cash or by cheque in order to secure the deal. The company schedules a day to do the job, and promises to return; the remaining balance of the payment to be paid upon completion of the work. In some of these cases, the business has never returned and does not respond to phone calls or any attempts to reach them, and the consumer has lost their deposit. In other cases, the business has arrived as planned and done the work; however, shortly afterwards, it becomes clear that the job was poorly done. Grass grows through the asphalt within a few weeks, edges break down and water pools form in uneven areas. Again, repeated attempts to contact the company go unanswered and the customer must then hire another business to make repairs, or even re-do the job.
When hiring a paving company BBB strongly urges consumers to:
- Obtain multiple quotes and evaluate the quotes based on the initial meeting with the contractor, the professionalism of the quote, the price, and the estimated timeline of the job. Is the asphalt type and quality indicated? Do they mention a minimum thickness? Is there a noticeable discrepancy in the dollar amount? (If one is much lower than the others, ask yourself if it is too good to be true).
- Be sure to have a detailed written contract that specifies the total cost of the job including applicable taxes and terms of payment, including refunds should the job be cancelled. The contract should also include details of the project such as asphalt thickness, specs and area, warranty coverage and terms and conditions.
- Check a company’s track record by asking for references and following up with them. Try using the contact information the business has provided to you, to ensure it’s valid and current. You can also check their Business Profile at bbb.org to see their BBB rating and any complaints or customer reviews the company may have.
- Avoid making an upfront payment in cash; wherever possible use either cheque or credit card so there is evidence of the transaction. If a down payment is requested, negotiate with the contractor as to the percentage of the down payment relative to the overall quote. Contractors may legitimately request a down payment as a sign of good faith, to reserve the date and book workers and equipment, and to acquire materials. The down payment should never be the full value of the job.
- Often use inferior materials or recycled asphalt; less material (compacted asphalt should be at least 2 inches thick).
- Suggest unnecessary work; next day or nearly immediate installation. Reputable companies are usually booked in advance.
- Limited warranty coverage.
- Demand a down payment in cash, or even full payment before the work is started.
- Avoid returning calls and are sometimes aggressive when questioned.
BBB strongly urges
consumers to protect themselves by exercising caution and due diligence when
searching for a reputable paving contractor.
Equip yourself with knowledge of local bylaws and avoid out of area contractors as many disreputable contractors move from area to area before their poor workmanship and questionable business practices catch up to them.
Remember – if a quote seems too good to be true, it probably is.