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Tips to avoid problems with summer maintenance contractors

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CROMWELL — Connecticut Better Business Bureau has some advice for homeowners who need regular lawn or pool maintenance:  Do your research before choosing a contractor.

“If you fail to do your homework, you could end up with substandard job and unwanted charges on your credit card,” according to Connecticut Better Business Bureau President, Paulette Scarpetti.  “If a lawn maintenance contractor doesn’t do the job properly, you can end up with problems that will cost more money to fix.”

Consumer complaints about lawn care businesses include “phantom” lawn businesses that are eager to take your money but don’t make scheduled visits as promised, poor customer service, difficulty obtaining refunds and being charged for services that were never ordered.

Complaints about pool maintenance contractors are similar, including technicians not showing up for pool cleaning and the markup on pool chemicals.  Some of these businesses charge a flat rate for chemicals.  A flat rate hides the fact that pool chemicals have different costs.  If pool maintenance contractors don’t do their rounds as promised, it can cause health problems for anyone who goes into the water.

Better Business Bureau offers tips to help you avoid problems with summer maintenance companies:

  • Check their reputation – Most important of all is to see what other consumers’ experiences have been like with a given company and whether there is a pattern of poor marketplace practices.  Check out prospects at bbb.org.
  • Don’t bend to pressure – Close the door on high-pressure tactics such as encouraging you to sign a contract on the spot.
  • Take control of the contract – Verbal representations should be spelled out in the contract.  It should detail what you have hired the business to do, how often they will visit, the total cost of service so that you don’t get any surprises and the refund policy.  Make sure there is a stipulation about how to cancel your contract.
  • Select your own payment method – You might want to avoid paying for several months of service in advance if you can pay on a monthly basis.  Avoid automatic billing on your credit card in case you are dissatisfied with the service and don’t want to have to fight to stop recurring payments.

Ask potential hires if their work is guaranteed and get it in writing. You shouldn’t have to pay for incomplete or sloppy work.