After 30 years, Barbara Conklin knew it was time to get a new roof for her Silver Spring home.
She got opinions from friends who had recently been through the process and asked them for roofing company referrals in April. She received the names of five companies and scheduled appointments for estimates with each one.
But one company actually came knocking at the door.
The sales manager from Atlantic Remodeling said he had the best deal in town and wanted to come back for an official appointment. The sales manager came back another day and stayed until 8:30 p.m., walking throughout the house for the estimate. He wrote up a contract that night, convincing Conklin of the unmatchable deal he was offering her.
“I was told if I didn’t do it that night he would be the lowest price I’d see and if I had gone back later it would go up $3,000,” Conklin said.
Conklin wrote a check for about $3,600 as a down payment for the job.
Although Conklin had committed to a contractor, she still went along with the five other appointments. Meeting after meeting, she found out that the payment she had given Atlantic Remodeling was almost twice the quotes she was receiving from other companies.
Quickly realizing she had overpaid, Conklin contacted the Atlantic Remodeling sales manager but never got a call back. She kept calling and sent letters to the company to ask for her deposit back. Conklin spoke to the director of operations who listened to her story and said he would call her back, but she said she never received a call.
“I’m an educated person, I work in the real estate business, and I got taken in. I got brainwashed,” she said about committing to the contract.
She said she felt “mortified” and went to see an attorney for guidance on how to retrieve her money.
Her counsel told her to contact the Office of Consumer Protection, who immediately took on her case and found that the Atlantic Roofing sales manager was not licensed to make contracts. The attorney contacted the company on her behalf and with the help of a retired lawyer, helped her get back her full deposit.
Atlantic Remodeling reviewed the case and said the sales manager was licensed, but his name was misspelled on the license and therefore it was invalid.
“… We got him relicensed as a salesman so they can do a sales contract correctly and we refunded her deposit,” said Brendan Stackpole, vice president of Atlantic Remodeling.
Whatever the reason for the error, Conklin is happy she was able to get back her deposit.
A growing number of Montgomery County residents are investing in similar home renovation contracts before knowing all the facts.
The Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition recently screened Stealing Trust, a documentary about 10 Maryland residents who were taken advantage of by contractors, debt consolidation counselors and other financial predators during home improvements, foreclosures and loan modifications.
“Being an educated consumer in today’s society has become a full time job,” said Eric Friedman, director of the Montgomery County Office of Consumer Protection.
Conklin said she was embarrassed about what happened but realized it could happen to anyone.
“I want to let people know that there are ways to prevent it,” she said.
Her tips for others looking to start home improvement projects include: research prices and talking to companies before committing to one; check to make sure all licenses are up to date; and have another person present during appointments to look over a contract with you before you commit.
For other ways to protect yourself from committing to suspect contracts, check out Patch’s 10 ways you can protect yourself from fraud.
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For home inspection services in the Sacramento and Bay Area please contact Golden State Home Inspections at 800.441.0804 or visit http://www.goldenstatehomeinspections.com.
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