Know all the facts before you sign the documents

It is imperative that you do your homework before you allow any person or entity to undertake work on your behalf. Before persons or entities perform work on your home, you should always find out: if they are licensed by the Arizona Registrar of Contractors.

by Emily B. Kile — 

Sometimes it is easy to look back and see bad decisions we’ve made. With hindsight, we can review the facts and see all the “signs” that existed, signs that should have made it obvious that we should not move forward with the deal. However, the best time to determine whether something is a good or a bad deal for us is before we make the deal, sign the papers and shake hands, because often we cannot go back and undo what is done.

Not long ago, a client came to my office beside herself with anger, frustration and fear. She had received a call from a company she thought was the utility service offering to help her lower her utility bills. It sounded like a great idea, so she invited them to come to her home. They asked her to sign a stack of papers “to make it valid,” and then they did some work at her home.

The next month, she received a bill from a company she did not recognize. It was a very large bill (several thousand dollars) and she became concerned. The bill mentioned the energy savings she would enjoy, so she immediately telephoned the utility company to find out why they had sent her an invoice. They sent her a letter indicating they had no idea what she was talking about.

It turned out that one of the papers she had signed was called a “Deed of Trust.” That deed of trust was recorded as a lien against the home she owned, free and clear — that is, she owed no debt on it. She had thought she would live out her days in her home, even though she was on a very small fixed income. Now, she was dealing with a significant bill and a lien against her home. All because she thought the utility company had developed a way to decrease her utility bills.

Hearing this story now, it may seem perfectly obvious that this was a bad deal for the client and she should have known better. However, she did not ask enough questions or have a thorough understanding as to what responsibilities she would incur as a result of the visit from this company.

Please take this cautionary tale to heart. It is imperative that you do your homework before you allow any person or entity to undertake work on your behalf. Before persons or entities perform work on your home, you should always find out: if they are licensed by the Arizona Registrar of Contractors (602-542-1525); if they have any complaints pending against them; and whether there have been any complaints filed in the past. In the instance of my client, this entity had had more than 10 complaints levied against them in the past year.

The Senior HelpLine, sponsored by the Area Agency on Aging, also is a great place to call if you are uncertain whether something is legitimate or a scam (602-264-4357 or 1-888-264-2258). The Help Line operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Never sign a document you have not read completely or do not understand! While many documents are “just forms” — those forms can have significant consequences to you, as was the case with the deed of trust signed by our client.

With regard to services that will be billed, make sure you review and understand the interest penalties if you do not pay the full amount immediately, and determine any other default penalties for late or partial payments. Always ask if there is a cancellation period before you will be charged anything. Arizona law has protections for certain business transactions that occur in your home.

Anyone can make a bad decision. Do not be embarrassed to cancel a contract during the cancellation period. Contact the Senior Helpline for assistance in resolving a dispute, or contact the Attorney General’s Office to report unethical business entities or persons. An informed consumer should be a vendor’s best customer, not its most dreaded. Be that informed and educated consumer.

 

Emily B. Kile, principal attorney with The Law Office of Emily B. Kile, P.C., focuses on helping people through life’s stages, including Medicaid (ALTCS) counseling, guardianship, conservatorship, trusts, wills, powers of attorney, probate and estate settlement. Emily@azestatelaw.com or 480-348-1590.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 25, Number 2, April/May 2006.

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Web Analytics