Find a Better Gutter Cleaning Company and Avoid Fraud with These Helpful Tips!
Being a homeowner, there are some very important questions to ask BEFORE choosing a gutter cleaning company. The following article is long, but taking the time to read and understand it will save you hundreds over the years.
Ways companies misrepresent themselves and rip customers off
- Lying about the number of years they’ve been in business
- Lying about the number of customers served
- Price Range Scam
- Bait and Switch
- Recommending Themselves
- Charging per downspout in Groupon-like deals
- Charging per foot in Groupon-like deals
- Trip charges in Groupon-like deals
Common Misrepresentations in the Gutter Industry.
There are several untruthful and unethical practices that have become commonplace in our industry. The most prevalent and important to be aware of are:
- Lying about the number of years one has been in business. You can go to www.bbb.org to check how long a company has truly been in business. If their word and the facts don’t match, how can you trust them with working on your home?
- Lying about the number of customers a company has served. This is when a company says they have serve 40,000 homes in Atlanta, when they have only serve 4,000. Here is a good rule of thumb to figure out the truth. If they say something like, “40,000 customers served,” call the company and ask them how many crews they have. Take the number of services a year they provided and divide it by 2,000. This gives you the number of crews. If the number you came up with doesn’t match the company, this is a big concern. We have found companies with two vans claiming to serve 40,000 homes a year. This would mean each van does 83 homes a day (if there is no service on weekends). (ABGC)
- Price Range Scam. This is one of the broadest scams out there. You call a company and provide your information and, over the phone, they give you a range, usually within 10-30 dollars, which the actual price of your cleaning may fall in, but guaranteed not to be higher than the highest amount. The company entices you with the low price, but it always ends up being the highest possible price within the range. Any professional, seasoned company should be able to give you a set price right over the phone. (AGC, ABGC)
- Fear of the Bait and Switch. Bait and Switch is when a company advertises one price and you hire them, but then it turns out the price is different; and not because there was confusion about the details of your home, or you have covers on your gutters and told the company you thought there was nothing over them. No, the price is simply changed. Bait and switch happens more in the carpet cleaning industry than in gutter cleaning. However, the consumer fear is there and some gutter cleaning companies manipulate this fear. They tell them that other companies offer what seams to be a low price and then change that price once onsite. The truth is, these companies make you afraid of hiring a company at an affordable price, so you end up hiring a more expensive competitor for the same service. You should never pay more than what you have to for service. The key to avoiding this issue is to get the price in writing and read the information that comes with that price. If the company offers to send you a set price in writing, it is highly improbably they would attempt to raise the price.
- We Recommend Ourselves. This is when a company claims that they have been chosen as an “expert” of some radio or TV station, or they have joined a consumer watch and reviews service that offers the company as their chosen professional. 97% of all these types of websites and services are simply paid-for advertising. Websites like ServiceMagic.com, Citysearch.com, Kudzu.com, ToFixIt.Com, cbs46.com, wsbtv.com, ajchomefinder.com, and others are sites that companies pay in order to be listed and offered as experts. We have even advertised or continue to advertise in some of the above, but we never claimed that the Atlanta Journal Constitution chose us as their expert, or that we are Home Depot’s gutter cleaning experts. If a company still feels like they need more help, they’ll design a website that is fake and list themselves as a chosen service. When you think you see this, look for other services on the website. If this huge professional website has only one gutter cleaning company listed, or only two-to-three companies for thirty-some categories, it is a tell-tale sign of a company manipulating you into thinking they are professional.
- Unprofessional Quality of Work. Beware of small-time handymen who claim they can do the work. The following are just a couple of the photos we have taken of unprofessional repairs.
- Charging per downspout in Groupon-Like Deals. We have seen one company do a deal through Groupon where they sold the Groupon for only $49, but what as not listed in the fine print of the deal is that the company, for this deal, did not consider the downspouts as part of the deal. What the company would do is charge $10 per downspout for doing the basic cleaning. The customer thinks they are buying a deal, but ends up paying more than going with a fully priced company like us. (QPGC)
- Charging per foot in Groupon-Like Deals. A company did a deal on Groupon where they only did up to 125 ft of gutter for the deal. Anything about and beyond that, they charged extra. The problem with this is that the amount of time to do a gutter cleaning doesn’t really change so much with different lengths of gutter. The other issue is a concern of whether that company will do an accurate measurement. Several people who bought that Groupon left incredible harsh reviews stating they felt ripped off and taken advantage of. The company was also going at a rate of $1.80/ft. It is not a common practice to quote and charge per foot for gutter cleaning, but a fair and appropriate range for doing so is $.90-$1.20/ft.
Do You Have Workman’s Compensation and General Liability ?
Gutter Company Insurance Policies
Most companies have insurance policies that protect you and your home against possible damages caused by a laborer. Most companies DO NOT have Workman’s Compensation, the policy that protects you in case a laborer becomes injured or ill on your property. Any company performing service on your property should have a Workman’s Compensation policy. Though it may seem to be a requirement, there are several loopholes companies use to legally operate WITHOUT the policy. In this instance, if an employee of a non-insured company is injured on your property, your homeowners insurance could be sued for medical bills and loss-of-wage.
Every company with these policies will have an insurance certificate. You should receive a copy of this policy by email or fax BEFORE you ever agree to service. Companies without these policies will tell you they will mail a copy to you or bring one out when they perform the service. They say this because they are counting on doing the service BEFORE you get a copy of the policy. The reason is that they don’t have a policy. If you are home when the service is performed, they may claim it is still in the mail, or that they ran out of copies, or they simply forgot. They are putting you at risk of being sued for thousands if an accident should occur, and dramatically raising your homeowner’s insurance premiums. Understand that more than half of all gutter cleaning companies in Atlanta DO NOT have Workman’s Compensation insurance.
There is no substitute for Workman’s Compensation. A waiver of responsibility will be useless if the matter should reach the courts. Also, business owners who perform labor themselves will tell you that by law, they don’t have to carry Workman’s Compensation for themselves. That is true. However, these are the exact types to be cautious about. They are the ones that can profit from their own accident on your property that you’ll end up paying for.
Are Your Employees Fully Insured?
Wait, isn’t that the same as the last question? Actually, it isn’t. You see, another way a company can commit fraud and put you at risk is by hiring what is commonly known as “day laborers.” A day laborer is an individual whom the company picks up at a gas station or in front of a hardware store, gives them a uniform shirt to wear, and then throw them on the roof for cash they pay under-the-table. Workman’s Compensation insurance is paid by the company based on their staff and payroll. This means that day laborers are not covered. In fact, if the insurance company was to discover the use of day laborers by a company they insured, the policy would be dropped and the company would be sued for insurance fraud.
So when a company uses day laborers, but they have an insurance certificate, they are lying to you and defrauding you. They are most likely charging you a premium price to put inexperienced, illegal labor on your roof to do the dangerous job of cleaning your gutters. Not only are they breaking your trust, but alsothey are breaking the law. If a company comes to your home with day labor, they are defrauding their insurance company and defrauding the government of taxes. At this point, can you trust them not to defraud you? Many of the companies that commit this fraud have been in business for several years and have thousands of customers. Be cautious of any company you hire, no matter how professional they appear.
Issues of Immigration
Atlanta’s Best Gutter Cleaners is a liberal company with liberal ideals. With having a diversified staff, we have had experiences over the years with customers questioning the legality of our employees. Though all of our staff are legally hired, carry id, and are certified roofers, they still came into question either because of their nationality or race. Though it is always unpleasant to experience this unfortunate profiling, it has become a widespread concern. It is a fact that in some cases when a company hires illegal day laborers, the employees are not legal residents of the United States of America. In the past couple of years, these issues have received greater media coverage and government legislation.
Whatever side of the fence you stand on with this issue, whatever the current law, America’s welcome mat has always been “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” Though we feel every man, woman and child have the right to come to America and establish themselves here, current law prohibits us from hiring any immigrant who is in the country illegally. Since we are an honest and ethical company, we cannot break that law.
The flip side of this is that a company that knowingly hires illegal immigrants does not have issues with breaking the law, nor do they have concerns of putting you at another level of risk. New programs have been created to identify, capture, and export illegal immigrants to their homeland. By hiring a company that employs illegal immigrants, you are in fact hiring those immigrants. If some were arrested while on your property, you could be held liable for a $1000 fine for each immigrant from the ICE. The company you hired can evade trouble by saying they were a “middle man” subcontracting to the laborers. Therefore, you become the direct employee. This is the danger in working with a company using day laborers to begin with. Don’t take the risk. Learn more at www.ICE.gov
What You Can Do
- Ask for a copy of the insurance by email BEFORE you book service.Only schedule AFTER you receive it.
- Get a set price in writing.
- Tell the company that you will be home for the service (even if you wont) and that you wish to speak to every member of the cleaning crew, to make sure each person understands exactly what you want in regards to service and what your concerns are in regards to your home. If there is any difficulty in this communication, or any member of the crew does not appear to be fully knowledgeable and trained, you will turn away service.
- Ask for the names of every person who will be at your home, and verify the names when they arrive. It is your right to ask for identification of any person performing service on your property.
- Most importantly, never pre-pay for service or provide a credit card number till after your service is completed.A company that cuts corners and saves cost by hiring illegal labor and defrauds their customers should not be trusted with the privacy and integrity of keeping your credit card on file.
- Ask for a link to their reports atWWW.BBB.ORG and check out the company’s history.
- If you hire a company that turns out to have illegal labor, you should report them to their insurance company carrier. They are committing a crime and putting your homeowners insurance in jeopardy. The insurance company is also being defrauded by the company. When the company you hire tries to save money, they may end up costing you money.
Atlanta’s Best Gutter Cleaners is proud to have some of the few, if only, fully-insured professionally trained gutter cleaning crews in Atlanta. We provide quality service at affordable prices, often the same or lower than even the non-insured companies. Though we have the guaranteed lowest price on gutter cleaning in Atlanta, we do not compete with companies that are not fully insured. It would be the same as competing with criminals.