Beware of Chimney Repair Scams

It started with a phone call. When the voice on the phone said she had require a Massachusetts fireplace repair costing more than $1,000, her natural skepticism set in: ‘We’re from Boston so we tend to say: ‘Waida  minute, here.”

‘I might have easily been ripped off,’ she says. ‘An awful lot of other people would have been cheated by this, too.’

John Sheehan initially thought the contractor who called his house with a cheap cleaning present was his chimney had been swept by a local one who the previous year. The Bloomfield, Conn., member was not even amazed when the technician from Clean-cut Chimney told him it needed over a cleansing, citing serious problems with the flue and lining.

Chimney cleaning and repair scammers tend to follow the patterns of these in other do-it-yourself industries, luring homeowners via telephone solicitations, door-to-door sales pitches or adverts offering too-good-to-be-true rates and preying on fear and not enough knowledge to score quick sales. When they obtain a foot in the door, they may maintain costly repairs or products are expected quickly to prevent serious issues like carbon monoxide leaks or chimney fires. Some encounters don’t turn out in addition to Talaszek’s.

‘I bought the home from somebody who had held it for 20 years, and maintenance was not his powerful suit,’ says Sheehan, who consented to have a chimney filling and pursuit limit installed although he had never hired the company before. He ended up paying $3,800 for work that was not completed and $900 for a chase cover the organization never delivered.

‘The next person who appears will have a real hard time selling me such a thing — even Girl Scout Cookies,’ Sheehan says. A number for Clean-cut was disconnected and a female who answered at another number listed for the company said it was not attached to the company.

Scams more commonplace in the North-east

Client run-ins with fake chimney companies seem to be concentrated in the north-eastern part of the country, with many complaints targeting companies depending on Long Island in New York, where Clean Cut was found, according to experts from the business and law enforcement.

But bad experiences with fireplace businesses can occur anywhere. Member Richard Strecker of Loveland, Ohio, says a technician dumped soot and dust beside his driveway after washing his chimney, and then refused it when he reported to the company’s office.

Eleven percent of Angie’s List members responding to an online study say they have had one or more bad experience using a chimney specialist and 2 percent say they’ve had nothing but bad experiences. Thirteen percent say they thought they’d paid too much or paid for services they did not need.

The shady business techniques have spread as far as Maine, where in fact the attorney general filed fit last November against a Massachusetts-based chimney repair business called Lysco Contracting for defrauding customers and failing to register to conduct door-to-door sales. The suit claims the company contacted elderly residents and offered chimney inspections or washing for $50 or less, and then used scare tactics to offer unnecessary chimney boats for a large number of dollars. There have been no listings for Lysco in Maine or Massachusetts.

‘I had just bought a house, and I wanted to be sure the fire worked OK,’ claims Caporale, who has small children. She says the technician informed that her home was at immediate risk for carbon monoxide buildup, which frightened her into paying $9,400 for a chimney ship, repairs and a supplementary chimney port that she later found believe was unnecessary. She says she felt pressured to add the extra $3,800 vent to her work-order when it was getting dark and the specialist told her she’d be without warm water overnight if she did not. ‘Bottom line: I was scammed,’ she says.

Businesses in his place market a fireplace cleansing for as low as $29.95.

Pilger, who has tried to raise awareness by dealing with consumer groups and local and national media, says cons have been hurting his industry for a lot more than two decades. Consumer signals and news reports published within the last few year indicate that they continue, alongside those that puppy other home service industries like paving and air duct cleaning.

After they allegedly tried to bilk an elderly person from $1,200 worth of pointless chimney repairs, early last year, police in Darien, Conn., arrested two men employed by Priority Home Improvements of Massapequa, N.Y.. Police in Tenafly, N.J., filed complaints against three other men linked to the same company in November.

‘It is difficult to research and difficult to catch these guys,’ says Capt. John Trainor of the Tenafly Police, who estimates he’s examined about seven similar cases since 2002. ‘They have numerous billheads and keep changing the business names.’ There have been no listings for Priority in Massapequa and one number formerly connected with that company was being employed by another company.

The Fair Lawn, N.J.-based A-Safeway posseses an F rating depending on three studies. ‘Obviously you can not make everyone happy but I try my hardest,’ says Nelson, adding that he has twenty years of experience.

Do your research, prevent take choosing decisions

As with hiring any specialist, it’s far better obtain numerous prices before proceeding with work. Be wary of up-front prices that appear too good to be true, and don’t let companies pressure you into making snap decisions.

Joe Sauter of Your Chimney Sweep in Indianapolis recommends homeowners retain chimney contractors who are bonded and insured. Sauter goes in terms of having his insurance agent send proof he is covered around $1 million to potential customers.

Check always whether your contractor is affiliated with groups like the Chimney Safety Institute of America, which is one of just a few offering nationally-recognized accreditation for the, based on authorities. Professionals certified by the CSIA receive training and adhere to a standard of ethics.

A builder also ought to be in a position to provide photo or video evidence if any extensive repairs are expected. ‘I carry a digital camera,’ claims Sauter, whose company is highly-rated with 410 studies on Angie’s List.

There are about 1,500 CSIA-certified specialists of about 5,000 fireplace companies nationwide, according to Institute speaker Melissa Heeke. You can ask your company to show you their CSIA or other professional credentials, proof of insurance and any additional licensing that may be needed for your task. ‘It is extremely simple to get some resources and say you’re a chimney sweep because it is a largely unregulated trade,’ Heeke says.

Chimney checkups are important

It’s still important to support your chimney frequently in order to avoid any dangers, while it is wise to keep clear of fly-by-night organizations. Even though not exactly 90 percent of Angie’s List members who responded to a web-based survey reported having a chimney, 56 percent say they’ve never used a chimney supplier.

Whether your fireplace is venting a wood-burning or gas fireplace, wood stove, furnace or water heater, you should have it inspected yearly and washed as needed, based on the CSIA. Creosote could build up within your fireplace, making a fire hazard. Animals can take up residence or debris can accumulate, preventing a flue. A chimney professional can make sure there are not any problems with the different elements that may comprise your chimney — like the mortar, flue or hat — lots of which can be difficult or impossible to see without special equipment and a trained eye.

‘We see so many fireplaces that require to be rebuilt from the roofline up because they have now been neglected,’ Irish says.

The variety of rain in the Pacific North-west makes fireplaces very prone to water damage, which could influence the interior and exterior of the structure. ‘You can catch repairs if they are minor and save cash down the road,’ Irish says. A chimney master can’t only place issues getting origin, but help you on waterproofing.

When possible, have your chimney repaired before the burning season starts, around April through September. ‘We provide off-season and new consumer discounts,’ says Karla Swanson, among the owners of the highly rated Chim Chimney in Sacramento, Calif. You are likely to get quicker service if you do not wait for the first cold snap of the year.

Member Jane Parsons of Shingletown, Calif., says she ignored her normal fireplace maintenance for quite some time in an attempt to cut costs, although she uses her fireplace with a face made of lava rock daily in the winter.

‘One day I started a fire and most of the smoke started pouring in the house,’ says Parsons, who then called the highly-rated Flue Season Chimney Sweeps in regional Redding. Flue Season determined she’d had a little fire, but surely could clean and fix the chimney in her unique mountain home for $225. The company also sent a card with treats on her cats afterward. ‘I may have had a structure fire,’ Parsons says. ‘After that knowledge, I am having it done on an annually basis.

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