Paving scams surface during hot days of summer cautions the BC Better Business Bureau. (File)

Paving scams surface as B.C. summer heats up

Advisory from the BC Better Business Bureau regarding paving scams

A recent report to Better Business Bureau (BBB) Scam Tracker where a North Vancouver resident lost $4,500 has prompted a warning about paving or driveway repair scams.

This scam tends to surface during the warm days of spring and summer and the BBB wants consumers to know how they can avoid being victims.

How it works

Usually, the setup involves a less-than-trustworthy contractor visiting your home and claiming they have leftover materials from a previous paving job. They are looking for homes with cracked driveways and say they can take care of your driveway for a significantly discounted rate. The catch is that you have to pay upfront.

Since the contractor is using leftover materials, the quality of work is poor because there is normally not enough asphalt to adequately cover all the cracks. This causes uneven spreading, and a risk of further cracking of the consumer’s driveway. Another common trait of this scam is where the contractor starts working, but does not have enough asphalt to complete the job that same day. They promise to return the next day to finish, however they never come back and consumers are left with an unfinished driveway. Oftentimes, consumers do not have a way to contact the representative or the company they work for because they were never given a business card or do not have an agreement in writing.

“If you are considering to have some paving work done, it is crucial to research trustworthy paving contractors on bbb.org before handing over money,” says Karla Laird, Manager for Community & Public Relations at BBB Serving Mainland BC. “Do not be pressured into accepting a job before seeking multiple quotations, or worse, paying large amounts upfront, especially in cash”.

A victim in North Vancouver spent $4,500 to repave his driveway and days after the job was completed, the asphalt turned white and the cracks started to resurface. The business promised to return to fix the driveway but never turned up for their appointment. Calls and emails to the business have since gone unanswered. The victim visited the Venables Street address that was listed on the company’s website but found another unrelated business located there.

Red flags:

There are leftover materials from another job. Professional asphalt contractors know, with great accuracy, how much paving material is needed to complete each project. They rarely have leftover material.

You are pushed to make a quick decision. Trustworthy contractors will provide a written estimate that will be valid for days or weeks. It should specify in detail the work to be performed and the total price.

Cash-only sales. Most reputable contractors will take credit cards or other forms of payment. Avoid making an upfront payment in cash. Wherever possible, use either cheque or credit card so there is evidence of the transaction. If a downpayment is requested, negotiate the percentage of the downpayment relative to the overall quote. Contractors may legitimately request a downpayment as a sign of good faith, to reserve the date, book workers and equipment, and acquire materials. However, the downpayment should never be the full value of the job.

The company is located out of city/province. Look at the truck the representative travels in. If it is unmarked or has an out-of-province license plate, be cautious. Even if the representative claims to have a local phone number, scammers can easily purchase disposable cell phones to provide a local number in the area they are soliciting.

When seeking to hire a paving contractor:

Be sure to have a detailed written contract that specifies the total cost of the job including applicable taxes, terms of payment, and refunds should the job be cancelled. The contract should also include details of the project such as asphalt thickness, specs and area, warranty coverage and terms and conditions.

Obtain multiple quotes and evaluate the quotes based on the initial meeting with the contractor, the professionalism of the quote, the price, and the estimated timeline of the job. Do they indicate the asphalt type and quality? Do they mention a minimum thickness? Is there a noticeable discrepancy in the dollar amount? (If one is much lower than the others, ask yourself if it is too good to be true).

Remember that disreputable contractors:

Often use inferior materials or recycled asphalt; less material (compacted asphalt should be at least 2 inches thick).

Suggest unnecessary work; next day or nearly immediate installation. Reputable companies are usually booked in advance.

Limited warranty coverage.

Demand a downpayment in cash, or even full payment before the work is started.

Avoid returning calls and are sometimes aggressive when questioned.

If you have spotted a scam, even if you have not lost any money, report it to BBB.org/ScamTracker. Your report can prevent others from being victimized.

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