Archive for the ‘BCB’ Category

Driveway Sealing Alert

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

By Carmen Santora

Carmen Santora, Executive Director of the Better Contractors Bureau is warning consumers contemplating having their driveway sealed that there are contractors presently in our area from out of state using unscrupulous tactics when sealing driveways.

Santora says, “The usual rule of thumb when sealer is mixed is, for every 100 gallons of sealer 30-40 gallons of water should be added. The scam artists are doing it the opposite and in some cases we have been told that some are mixing as little as 10 gallons of sealer to 100 gallons of water.” In reality all you’re getting is black, colored water that will wash off with a rain.

In one such case a caller complained (wouldn’t give his name) and said that the contractor he went with practically was chasing the sealer down the drive way, that’s how much water was in the mix. He said he went strictly on price and he should have known better when he paid $39.00 after getting two other estimates for $89.00 and $99.00. He also forgot that when he did his driveway himself a few years back that it took 4 five gallons pails at approximately $18.00 each and along with having to buy a broom/squeegee the cost to do it then was $65.00 for materials only.

Consumers should watch out for special so called deals and especially watch for out of state license plates and don’t fall for the line, “I’ve got some sealer left over and can give you a really good price”.

Remember, a good driveway sealer contractor will blow off the entire driveway, use a weed eater on the edges, cover the sidewalk between the truck and driveway to prevent accidental spillage from a storage tank and barricade the entrance when finished.

Contractors should also carry liability insurance in case of damage to your property, such as over splash on your overhead garage door or siding. Remember, the old saying “you get what you pay for” really applies with driveway sealing. For a recommendation of BCB driveway sealers you can call the office at 585-338-3600 or go to the BCB website at

Politicians Protect Fly-by-Night Contractors

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

Carmen Santora, Executive Director of the Better Contractors Bureau (BCB) said “ this year more fly-by-night contractors than ever have come from out of town to work in the Monroe County area. They come here to scam the consumers and take advantage of seniors, as they know there are no regulations to stop them. They have no insurance, no contracts, do shoddy work, give phony guarantees and take the money and run. They some times take large deposits and don’t do the work at all. There are also local contractors that do the same thing”. He said, “Now is the time to put a stop to it to protect our consumers”.

Representatives of the BCB a while ago met with the Majority leader of the Republican Party and the Minority leader of the Democrat Party of the Monroe County legislature to plead their case for the Registration of all contractors in Monroe County. Santora explained that over 40 states have formal licensing or registration and in those states complaints are much lower than here. He also wrote a draft of the proposed Registration law and the application in order to address any possible concerns that the County legislators might come up with. He also addressed a possible problem of the County representatives saying that they do not have the funds to administer the law. He proposed that the BCB a non-profit agency would set up an office, staff it and administer the law for the county for a small fee.

He said many of the legitimate contractors are in favor of the proposed law, as they feel that because all contractors would have to be insured, have legal contracts and require addresses and driver’s license numbers to be registered they would now be competing on equal terms and the low $100 annual fee would not be a hardship. It would also give the BCB the ability to track the out of town fly-by-night contractors.

Unfortunately after the meeting he was informed by the Majority leader of the Republican Party that he and some of his colleagues felt that the proposed law would just be another layer of government bureaucracy, only adding to the New York State’s crippling economy and government fees and be too cumbersome on small businesses.

It seems that the elected county officials (not all) are more concerned with protecting the dishonest contractors than the consumers who put them in office. The Registration of contractors would protect the consumer (especially seniors), not tax the consumers, not be costly to the local contractors, and bring much needed revenue to the County’s budget. (Over 10,000 contractors in Monroe County X $100 fee annually = one million dollars per year)

He asks that consumers call their area elected County representatives at either 753-1922 or 753-1940 and ask that the powers to be at least enable the entire County Legislature to vote on the proposal and not accept a decision by just a couple of individuals who are more concerned about protecting scam artist contractors than their constituents who they represent.

Warm Weather Brings Out Home Improvement Scammers

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

By Carm Santora

Warm weather is here and so are the scam artists who prey on homeowners, especially the senior citizens. These rip off scammers, more commonly known as “drifters” usually go door to door offering a variety of home improvements and repairs from roof and chimney repair, gutter cleaning, driveway sealing, tree trimming, etc.

They often say they can do the job at a really low price, as they have left over materials from another job. Many times, these scam artists are driving trucks with magnetic signs and out-of-state license plates, or operate out of store front offices that they can quickly move out of once they finish their scam or if they think local authorities have knowledge of them.

The Better Contractors Bureau recommends that you do the following to protect yourself against these fly-by-night operators:

Before you give permission to anyone to do work on your home that you have not actually called and especially before you allow them into your home you should check them out with the Better Contractors Bureau, as to whom the owner of the company is their address and reputation.

Ask for identification (Drivers license) and if they show you an out of state license then tell them that you are not interested. Be firm and do not allow them into your home, as most scam artists work in pairs and while one keeps you busy the other will search your house to steal valuables. Some even work with children and ask if their child can use your bathroom. NEVER FALL FOR THIS APPROACH!!

Don’t fall for the high-pressure stories like “this offer is only good if you take it now” or “once we leave your street we won’t be able to give you such a bargain again”.

If you have checked the contractor out and do feel confident that they are truly a legitimate, local contractor and want to have them do the job for you then be sure to get everything in writing on a bonafide NYS contract required by law. In the contract it must state along with all the specifications, that you have 72 hours to change your mind and any money given as a down payment or draw must go into an escrow account.

Never give a large down payment and never pay in cash no matter what they tell you or what discount they may offer you! Always pay by check, payable to the company name, not an individual!

If you have a large project or repair that you feel will be expensive you should get at least 3 estimates from similar size companies, all in writing.

Never allow a contractor that you have not called to go up on your roof to check the roof, chimney or gutters, as they sometimes have been known to actually damage those items so that they can show they are in need of replacing or repairing.

Make sure the contractor you finally decide on is properly insured with liability insurance and if he has employees on the job show proof of Workman’s Comp Insurance.

Always try to use a Better Contractor Bureau member, as they are registered and you will have recourse if they don’t do a good job.

Lastly, you should always go with the old saying, “you get what you pay for”.

For more information call the Better Contractors Bureau at 338-3600 or check the web site at

Top Ten Best Home Improvement Investments For Your Home

Thursday, April 26th, 2012

If you are thinking of a home improvement in the near future and are wondering if it would be worth the investment the following is a guide of the top ten best returns for your money.

Just remember that no matter what the return may be you shouldn’t overprice your home for the neighborhood you live in unless you either never intend to sell or won’t sell for a long time. You can invest any amount if it’s for your enjoyment and pleasure.

One important tip is if you do intend to sell curb appeal items such as painting, siding, roofing, windows, new front door and landscaping are the best investment and then kitchen, baths and new furnace wit air conditioning! Garages are not listed below but if you don’t have an existing one adding one will return almost 90% of your investment. Patio rooms are also a good investment!


1. Front Door Replacement / 130 %

2. Siding Replacement / 79-84%

3. Attic/ Bedroom Addition / 83 %

4. Deck / 80 %

5. Minor Kitchen Remodel / 78 %

6. Window Replacement (vinyl) / 77 %

7. Roofing Replacement (complete Tear-off) /  75 %

8. Major Kitchen Remodel / 72 %

9. Bathroom Remodel / 71 %

10. Basement Remodel /60-67 %

When To Pay The Contractor and How Much?

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

You’re planning a home improvement and hopefully got three estimates from contractors that you checked out with the Better Contractors Bureau.  You have decided on one as your contractor and call him to let him know he has the job and set a date for him to come over to sign the contract and discuss the specifications, approximate start and completion dates and most important to him the payment schedule.

You check the contract over to make sure it contains the contractor’s company name, address (not P.O. Box number), phone number, correct price, specifications, and the payment schedule. You find that he’s asking for a large down payment and three progress draw payments that are tied to various phases of the project’s progression phases.

This is where you have the upper hand and hold all the so-called cards! (money) Never give a large down payment! It’s suggested that you give a good faith deposit of no more than $500. Where specialty items have to be ordered such as custom cabinetry, custom windows or doors or any other items that will only be able to be installed in your home he will usually ask for more but it’s advisable to tell the contractor when he produces proof of the actual placed order you will then give him a draw for the item.

The regular payment schedule in the area is usually a small good faith down payment and then three progress draws. Always make sure the payment coincides with the work that’s done. For example in the case of an addition if the contract states one third when the mason starts the foundation don’t pay it until you see the materials are on the site and the mason is actually working. The same for a framing draw or other similar work done.

Any remodeling contractor worth his salt should have enough credit to buy materials and pay subcontractors to get the work started. However some suppliers want payment up front on specialty items and won’t except credit so in this case the contractor is within his right to ask for payment before ordering.

Most jobs will entail changes so be sure that you get the specifications and cost in writing and signed by both parties! Again don’t pay for a change upfront and only when the change is started. No matter what the draw schedule is that you agree on always protect yourself and keep a large enough balance to insure that the job is to your satisfaction.

A walk through final inspection should be mandatory and usually produces a punch list. If the job is completed and the punch list only has a few minor items on it such as some missing caulking or a molding that needs replacing and the balance is large then you should work out a payment for the balance holding enough to insure the contractor returns to finish the punch list items. Do not add to the punch list after the initial one so be sure you have listed all your concerns.

When the job is finished hopefully it was an enjoyable experience and you can recommend the contractor to friends and relatives. Good Luck with your project.

Tips On Reducing Indoor Air Pollution

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

By Carm Santora

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, about one in every five adults and children suffer from allergies, including allergic asthma. Many health groups have recommended three simple strategies for effectively reducing indoor air pollution.

First, control the source of pollution. Remember to clean regularly, including changing sheets and vacuuming often. Wipe down all surfaces with an appropriate cleaning solution and discard clutter as often as possible. Consider replacing old shower curtains, floor mats and anything on which mold is likely to appear.

Also remember to adequately ventilate your home. Today’s homes are built more energy efficient to hold air inside avoiding heat loss in the winter and heat gain in the summer. Of course, what’s better for your energy bills isn’t necessarily better for indoor air quality. Opening windows may help circulate in the home. But remember to close them during high allergy seasons, where pollen could enter your home.

In addition, clean the indoor air. An indoor air cleaner may significantly reduce the level of pollutants in a home. Before purchasing an air cleaner, know the square footage of the room you want to treat. You’ll want to select an air cleaner that’s large enough for the room you’re treating. Also, consider air filtering efficiency. You’ll want an air cleaner that’s proven to deliver filtered air.

Look for the CADR seal on the product packaging. The seal shows how well an air cleaner reduces pollutants such as tobacco smoke, pollen and dust and also lists the unit’s recommended room size.

From air cleaner to air cleaner, compare the CADR numbers. First look at suggested room size. Then refer to the dust, tobacco smoke and pollen CADR numbers. The higher the numbers, the faster the unit filters the air. If from one unit to the other ratings are the same, their air filtering performance is similar. You can then weigh the importance of product features to find an air cleaner that fits your needs.

How Much Can you recover From the Cost Of A Remodeling Project If You Resale?

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

By Carmen Santora

Carmen Santora, Executive Director of the Better Contractors Bureau in an effort to help homeowners contemplating a major remodeling project and who are concerned if the cost invested would be recouped should they decide to sell their home offers the following information. His analysis is based on a national average “cost vs. value” survey and condensed it to specifically relate to our local area.

The resale value depends on a lot of variables, such as the state of the housing industry and local market conditions in particular at the time of sale. A lot of homeowners are concerned that their remodeling investment doesn’t price their home out of the neighborhood averages. This should only be taken into account if you think that you may be selling your home in the near future.

If a homeowner has small children and is thinking of adding extra bedrooms or an additional bathroom they may want to think of the advantages of staying where they are.  If the schools are great, they live close to their workplace and shopping and are in an area of lower taxes or other personal conveniences, then they shouldn’t worry about pricing themselves over their neighborhood averages, especially if they intend to stay there for many years.

However, if the homeowners know they will be staying where they are for only a short time then a major remodeling would be foolish. Things like energy efficient updates such as new replacement windows, high efficiency furnace, roofing or siding, kitchen or bath updates would add to their comfort and help to sell the house faster and save them money while they still remain in the home. Major expenditures for a new kitchen and bath can run into thousands of dollars and unless money doesn’t matter or you don’t care about resale values then by all means go for it.

It’s important to know that there are a variety of variables that can effect both the cost of the remodeling and the resale of the home such as the size of the remodeling company estimating the project and the values of the properties in the surrounding neighborhoods.

Below are some area examples of the cost of what some remodeling projects can cost and what could be recouped if you sell your house. The numbers presented here should only serve as guidelines when contemplating the potential return on your investment for a particular remodeling project.

For a more information as to a more precise explanation of what the projects mentioned above include call the Better Contractors Bureau at 338-3600.

Recovery costs for home improvement projects remain high and have been accelerating even though the growth in spending on home improvements has declined nationally for most of 2003. As the economy improves so will spending on home improvements.

Lower priced projects during a sluggish economy are typical and usually only what is needed to keep a home energy efficient or make essential repairs. Higher priced projects tend to be more discretionary, and usually homeowners wait for the economy to improve before undertaking these expenditures.

In some market areas where house prices are growing rapidly, and local economies are doing better the average cost recovery can be much greater than the figures shown. The National average for cost recouped for the projects mentioned in 2003 was 86.4% and higher than 2002. Some areas such as Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Diego, and Washington were much higher and averaged as high as 109%. Some areas as Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dallas, Detroit and Indianapolis averaged 65% or less.

Carmen Santora, says that he believes that within the five county area that the BCB services, the average cost recouped for home improvements probably falls lower than the national average and is somewhere around 75% or less range.

The Better Contractors Bureau is a non-profit consumer protection agency that was formed in 1974. Its goals are to “PROTECT & INFORM” the consumer and ELIMINATE the unscrupulous contractors in the area. The BCB as it is also known operates in Monroe and the five surrounding counties and has over 400 members. The bureau handles complaints, mediates disputes between the contractor and consumer (not just members) and refers contractor members by way of a FREE Consumer Guide & Membership Directory. For more information you may call 338-3600 or go to the BCB website at

What Should Be In A Contract!

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

Right after the holidays many consumers will be thinking of that remodeling project that they want.

Whether it is roofing, siding, windows, that new kitchen or an addition it will be a costly investment and you should protect yourself before signing a contract.

New York State regulates the sale of home improvement goods and services and applies to most types of improvements costing more than $500 purchased by homeowners.

The law requires contractors to give you a contract that includes many provisions. The main ones are summarized below:

1. The name, address and phone number of the contractor must be on the contract. (Do not accept a P.O. Box number as the contractor’s address)

2. The exact amount of the project including progress payments.

3. A start and completion date, including any contingencies which would change the completion date such as bad weather. You may also want to have included a penalty clause for running over the completion date. A $100 per day deduction off the contract price is common for every day that the project runs over the completion date.

4. A clause that reads that “any progress payments received by a contractor from a customer can only be made if they bear a reasonable relationship to the work actually done, materials purchased or related costs.

5. Any payments received by a contractor from a customer prior to substantial completion of the job must be place into a escrow account in a bank located in New York State within five business days and the customer must be informed where the money is held within ten business days.

The contractor can only withdraw the deposit only in the following circumstances:

under the terms of the payment schedule agreed on by the contractor and the customers;

upon substantial completion of the job; or if the customer violates the contract, but only to the extent that the amount covers the contractor’s reasonable costs.

6. A complete specification description of the work and materials, including brand names, model numbers and other identifying information.

7. A consumer notice that reads as follows:

The customer has an unconditional right to cancel the contract until midnight of the third business day after the contract was signed.

Cancellation must be done in writing! If the contractor or subcontractor who does the work is not paid, he or she may have a claim against the customer’s property under the Lien Law.

8. Warranties and guarantees should be stated in the contract. Be sure to understand if the warranty or guarantee covers both the materials and labor and if they are prorated and transferable. For example a new roof job may warrant the materials for 25 years but the contractor may only warrant his labor for one year.

There are penalties against contractors and consumers may sue for actual damages, plus a $500 penalty and reasonable attorney’s fees if the contractor has used fraudulent written statements to get the contractor to sign the contract. The Attorney General is also authorized to go to court to stop illegal practices and order contractors to compensate defrauded customers.

Contractors can also face civil fines for violating the provisions of the law, especially with the protection of the customer’s payments.


Determine exactly what work you want done before you decide to get estimates.

Get three estimates from contractor companies that are similar in size. Be sure to check for verification of Liability and Workmen’s compensation insurance.

Check the contractor’s reputation with the Better Contractors Bureau, banks and suppliers.

Make sure when you decide on your final contractor to do the job that you are signing a contract that meets all the requirements of Article 36A of the NYS Business Law.

Do not pay a large deposit in advance of the start of the project unless it is for a specific reason such as special order cabinets or windows, etc. Instead negotiate a payment schedule tied to the completion of specific stages of the job.

Don’t pay the final payment unless you are satisfied and the job has been completed as per the contract specifications.

Avoiding Scams and Rip-Offs

Friday, March 11th, 2011

By Carmen Santora

Carmen Santora, Executive Director of the Better Contractors Bureau (BCB) says, each year many of the so-called gypsy contractors hit town with one thing in mind and that is to rip off unsuspecting consumers, especially seniors. He said this year they have hit in full force and warns home repairs are at the top of their list, as they are the easiest to con people into doing by using many different scare tactics. Many homeowners have already been ripped off. The BCB offers the tips below to help protect you against these unscrupulous individuals.

* Steer clear of drive-by repairmen. The most notorious scam artists in home repair frauds are the repairmen who cruise neighborhoods and sell their services at your front door. When that happens the first thing you should do is to check to see if they are driving a vehicle with out of town license plates. If they are then you can be sure you are talking to a fly-by-night operator. The license plate check is especially important to prevent the most common ploy; an offer to seal your driveway or clean your gutters at bargain prices. Some scammers even use useless motor oil to recoat driveways.

* Watch out for bogus chimney improvements. Scammers may tell you that your fireplace is unsafe and needs a new chimney liner. But unless you have visible problems such as cracks, loose or missing bricks, they’re probably pulling a scam. They usually come to your house and offer to clean your chimney for $50.00, look down the chimney and say you need $3,000 to $4,000 in repair work for the fireplace to work safely. The work they do is usually unnecessary and it’s your money that goes up in smoke. Before agreeing to an expensive repair, hire an independent home inspector or a professional chimney sweep to do an evaluation.

* Avoid the waterproofing scare tactics. If your basement floods every time it rains, you may need to have it waterproofed. But consider this very expensive job only after you’ve ruled out cheaper options. Frequently, gutters are simply clogged or soil surrounding the home has eroded so it slopes toward your home, causing water to seep in. Anytime someone tries to scare or panic you that should raise a red flag! Things like damp proofing paints and sealants can help with minor problems, as well as extending gutter downspouts out 4 feet from the house. Sump pumps can sometimes be installed without ripping up the entire basement perimeter. However, should you need major work make sure you deal with a specialist and always get three estimates.

* Don’t fall for the gimmicks. “ I have some left over materials from a previous job and can give you a great deal”. Or “If you pay me cash I can give you a great discount”. These are just another version of phony dishonest scams!

* One of the worse scams. is when they have children with them, and a lot do. They will ask if their child can use the bathroom and while you are outside the child is trained to search for valuables and you will find items missing after they’re long gone. DON’T LET ANY PERSON IN YOUR HOME FOR ANY REASON, ESPECIALLY IF THEY ARE STRANGERS!!

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