SALT LAKE CITY — Repave your driveway for half the price? It sounds like a good deal, but Utahns who take the bait often find themselves with severe buyer's remorse, according to complaints lodged with the KSL Investigators and state officials.
"Every year in the spring we have this over and over and over again," said Mark Steinagel, director of Utah's division of occupational and professional licensing. "We like to call them 'travelers.'"
"Travelers" because it's hard to call someone a scammer when, at the end of the day, a product and service that was paid for was received. Still, consumers reported feeling scammed after their dealings with some door-to-door asphalt contractors.
Here's how it tends to work:
- You get a knock on your door from someone saying they have leftover asphalt from a nearby job.
- The contractor claims they don't want the supplies to go to waste, so they'll repave your driveway for a fraction of the price they normally charge.
- Then, the contractor either doesn't finish the job, or it's so lousy that the homeowner has to pay more to have it all removed and get the job done right.
State regulators said these "travelers" never have a business license or even a home base, which makes it very difficult to bust them.
Steinagel said consumers were their own best line of defense against entering into one of these deals. It can be tricky, he said, since the pitch is usually high-pressure.
"This happens even more in a hot market like we have right now," Steinagel said. "People may have a harder time finding a contractor — that's a real issue — but because of that, they kind of let their guard down and are willing to enter into these deals."
Steinagel said the Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing in Utah gets "dozens" of complaints a year worth "many hundreds of thousands of dollars," but he suspects the number of victims is much higher.
"Those are just the ones that call DOPL, which are probably a fraction of those that are dealing with these problems," he said.
If someone knocks on your door with a great deal on asphalt, it's certainly worth at least taking a beat to do a little due diligence.
Make sure you get everything in writing and read it, Steinagel recommended. Often these "travelers" don't offer a contract. Some others will present contracts that spell in fine print that the contractor doesn't have to do a good job.
"Include that you're not going to pay until you're satisfied, or put the specifics of what you expect to be done in writing," Steinagel added.
Also, hop on your computer to make sure the company is actually licensed at www.dopl.utah.gov or call DOPL. Doing so helps ensure that if something does go wrong, you will be able to track them down.
Steinagel also suggested checking references and online reviews, or with the Better Business Bureau.