Homeowners beware: Chimney scams

May 28, 2009 3:50:52 PM PDT
There is a new warning to homeowners about a chimney-sweep scheme. Companies advertise cheap cleaning rates and then try to convince homeowners to do expensive, unneeded repairs. First, Cynthia Chalmers had one company check out her chimney. Morningstar's safety inspection ended with a $25 bill and a diagnosis that she had a hole to patch for $2,500. The man insisted he'd taken pictures. But that's when Chalmers called his bluff and asked to see them.

"That's when he became defensive and said, 'It's my camera, I don't need to show you any pictures.'"

Later, she found find out that Morningstar has no license to do business at all. Next, she got a second opinion, this time from A & C Chimney Cleaning.

Eyewitness News checked out the address of A & C Chimney Cleaning, but it has a different name and is also not licensed. It has "most affordable" advertised with a sign attached to an old, burned-out barbecue in front of a house.

The owner, listed under both business names, never came to the door. But Consumer Affairs confirmed that he has no license. But A & C told Chalmers she needed a liner and offered to fix it for a discounted rate.

State Senator Jeff Klein says the state needs to have a better system.

"Right now, under state law, the chimney sweeps are licensed under home improvement contractors," he said. "We need improved licensing procedures."

Meantime, Chalmers still doesn't know if her chimney is OK, and still must get it inspected. But she went the right route. She got a second inspection, but still got caught in the scam.

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WEB PRODUCED BY: Bill King

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