As the temperatures continue to drop, you’re likely to see ads offering low-cost air duct cleaning services and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) tune-ups. You decide to get some servicing done and the next thing you know, the HVAC contractor says that you need to replace your entire unit.
DCA’s Contractors State License Board (CSLB) says this type of HVAC visit is becoming all too common.
As part of its efforts to curb unethical activity, CSLB seeks to reduce the following predatory practices:
- Using hard-sell tactics to obtain grossly inflated contracts.
- Misrepresenting work as urgent, critical, or safety-related.
- Failing to provide the three-day right to rescind a home improvement contract.
- Failing to obtain building permits.
- Lacking workers’ compensation insurance or under-reporting employees.
Take your time before saying “yes” to an HVAC contractor. Prior to hiring a contractor, research the contractor and their services, and follow these guidelines:
- Make sure the HVAC contractor has a CSLB-issued State license.
- Visit the Better Business Bureau and CSLB websites to check the contractor’s standing and to find out if there are any pending disputes or disciplinary actions.
- Get written estimates from at least three companies.
- Ask questions.
- Get professional references for each contractor who is bidding on the job.
- Make sure your contract includes the notice about the three-day right to cancel.
- Check that the contract spells out that the contractor will obtain building permits and inspections that must be completed by the local building department to meet State energy efficiency laws.
- Don’t pay more than 10 percent or $1,000, whichever is less, as a down payment. There is an exception for about two dozen licensees who carry special bonds to protect consumers. These exceptions are noted on CSLB’s website.
- Don’t pay in cash, and don’t let your payments get ahead of the work.
Visit the CSLB website for more tips, to sign up for e-mail alerts, or to submit a complaint.