Be an informed consumer.
New Florida residents may be surprised to learn that not all service suppliers are honest. There are really good businesses and service providers here, as well as some not so good, to downright terrible ones. In our years in the Sunshine state we have learned to be very wary when choosing a contractor, plumber, lawn service and even dentist or doctor. Before agreeing to any proposal or contract for any sort of service, get a second opinion. That’s a good practice anywhere, but Florida seems to have an abundance of less than honest service people. The crooks like the weather here as much as we do.
You have to be very careful and use your common sense to find the right people to do things for you.
Here are some examples of some real shams that unscrupulous businesses have tried to lure us into.
Mold Remediation Scam
We had a problem in our guest room, the inside of the closet was damp and a very small amount of mold had formed. I called a firm who constantly advertises in the paper about mold issues. A nice lady shows up the same day and proceeds to tell me I should contact my insurance company about the problem because it was going to be very expensive to correct. Keep in mind, she never once tried to determine the source of the moisture. She kept telling me what they needed to do to remediate the mold issue.
Off I go to the insurance office. My agent told me that, yes I was covered for mold problems, up to the amount of $10,000.00. He said he could almost guarantee me that the quote from the company would be $9,800.00 or so. He explained that these firms know that most home owner insurance policies have the same amount of coverage for mold issues and so they tried to get as close to the limit as they could.
FOG maybe old and grouchy, but still is not a fool. I called an independent home inspector and asked if he could come in and find the source of the moisture. The fellow was paid to find problems, not fix them. So, he had no vested interest in suggesting what needed to be done to remedy the issue. He found a tile at the very bottom of the shower in the guest bathroom had loosened and water was getting behind the tile and spread to the closest in the bedroom.
After a bit of research on the EPA website and talking with others, the mold issue could easily be taken care of with minimal cost. The bigger issue was fixing the source of the moisture. We had the tile replaced and the mold treated for under $2,000.00, not the 10G the “remediation firm” suggested.
A Downright Lie
A few years ago, we hired a nationally known service to fertilization our lawn. After two treatments, an “expert” showed up and said we had a problem in the yard. He took me over to our queen palm trees and pointed out a green substance on the bark. He said that it was a fungus and that it would destroy our trees. We should immediately have it treated, at a cost of $100.00. I asked if he was certain that it was a destructive fungus. He assured me that it was and that our trees were in eminent danger of dying.
You should have seen his face when I said he was either a liar or thief, or both. The truth is, the so-called destructive fungus is actually harmless, green lichen. I volunteer at a local state park. One of the things the rangers told me, and that we pass on to park visitors, is that green lichen is a sign of a healthy environment for trees. It only grows when the tree and the area are in good shape.
I called the company and told him of the attempted scam. At first they defended the employee, up until I asked them if they were aware of the Florida laws against defrauding senior citizens (first time I ever played the old guy card). They soon admitted that the guy was lying and made every effort to keep me from calling the authorities.
Dental Cleaning – $2,000.00
Our trusted dentist had a stroke at age 50 and had to retire. We went to a new dentist who, after examining my wife’s teeth told her she needed a deep cleaning and he could arrange for an extended appointment to have it done. Now, Mrs. FOG is no dummy, even though she married me, she asked the fee for the service. The dentist informed her it was a necessary procedure, the cost was $2,000.00 and that she should not delay in having it done.
We asked some friends if they had a trusted dentist they could recommend. They did, so she made and appointment. She asked the new dentist about the health of her mouth and if she needed any extra treatment. He replied that she was in great shape and a routine cleaning was in order. His fee: $100.00, a far cry from the $2,000.00 from the other guy. Needless to say, we still go to the second dentist and her mouth is in great health.
There have been stories in the newspaper about more than one dermatologist who was doing unneeded procedures, of contractors doing unneeded work or taking a deposit and never returning to do the work and many other scams.
What is a New Floridian, or anyone else to do?
First, find a neighbor or trusted friend to recommend service people. If that is not possible, do some research on the Internet. Google a contractors or service provider’s name with “complaints” after it, for example: “Joe’s Roofing complaints”. Check the Better Business Bureau for membership and or complaints. Keep in mind that the BBB charges a fee to be a member and membership, or lack of, does not guarantee honesty. Don’t enter into any sort of an agreement or give anyone the go ahead for a project without seeking at least one additional opinion.
When you first arrive in a new area, the real estate person who sold you the house can and should be a great source of information; ask them for their recommendations.
Never – Never – Never…
purchase a service from, or give a deposit for a service to ANYONE who knocks on your door uninvited. Don’t fall for any story they give you about how soon your trees are going to die, how bad your roof is, how much your driveway needs to be repaired, or any number of scams. There are groups of bad guys who travel around preying on folks, especially older residents. If you think you may be interested in what they have to offer, ask for a business card or their phone number. Use some time to check them out and get other opinions or quotes.
Above all, recognize that the person suggesting or trying to sell you a service is doing so because that is how they make a living. They will try to sell you as much as they can, sometimes more than you need. There are many honest, dependable businesses in Florida; it’s your responsibility to find them.
FOG sez: I have been accused of having a dirty mouth, but even that would not cost two grand to clean.