Water heater scams are rising, and homeowners need to be aware of the signs to protect themselves. A water heater scam occurs when a person or company offers a low price for a new water heater but charges much more than the advertised price after the installation is complete. In some cases, homeowners have even had their old water heaters removed without their consent, resulting in a higher water bill and the need to purchase a new water heater.
What Is a Water Heater Scam?
Water heater scams involve illegitimate businesses that use high-pressure sales tactics to convince homeowners to sign contracts for water heaters that they do not need or want. These scams can result in homeowners being left with liens on their property, high installation fees, and low-quality water heaters. Homeowners who have been scammed often find it difficult to get out of their contracts or remove the lien from their homes. Denis Crawford, an attorney, specializing in such cases, estimates that tens of thousands of homeowners have recently fallen victim to water heater scams.
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Recently, Duncan McDonald, an Orillia resident, turned out to be a victim of a fraud that has left him upset and struggling for justice, as has been the case for many others in Ontario. In September, the 61-year-old answered a Facebook ad for a tankless water heater. Following an online connection, employees from Ontario Green Savings arrived at McDonald’s house prepared with aggressive sales methods and a hurried demeanor.
“I was interested in the device, and the pricing was comparable to a water heater,” he explained. “They didn’t tell me that they get you to sign a 12-year contract but don’t give you a tangible copy of it, which was a huge mistake on my behalf.”
McDonald received the contract through email and signed it. The next day, the firm came to his residence and pulled out his old water heater. On the day Ontario Green Energy departed McDonald’s property, it placed a lien on his home, preventing him from selling it without recouping all of the money due to the firm.
Denis Crawford, an attorney, was engaged to look into it. Crawford reassured McDonald that he was not alone, claiming that tens of thousands of others had been victims of the same coin.
Under the Consumer Protection Act, McDonald’s is entitled to a one-year cooling-off period. On the other hand, Crawford claims that scammers, such as Ontario Green Savings, do not honor the cooling-off period.
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He continued, “I’ve written to these companies asking them to remove the lien, come pick up their equipment, and honor the one-year cooling-off period.” “In Duncan’s situation, the loan business deleted its lien, but the door-to-door company that had sold the water heater just recorded their claim the next day.”
Crawford claims that homeowners have paid anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000 to get rid of liens because they don’t have the time to fight them in court. The terrible issue is that people are trapped with sub-par equipment until they can afford to pay off the lien or employ a lawyer.
McDonald will argue that the lien is invalid since he signed the Ontario Green Savings contract without his wife, a registered homeowner, being aware of it. He hopes that the lien will be withdrawn and the equipment removed from his property.
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Besides the installation fees, high-pressure tactics, and lien on the property, homeowners face other risks when they fall victim to water heater scams. In some cases, scammers may remove the old water heater without the homeowner’s consent, resulting in a higher water bill.
In other cases, scammers may install a lower-quality water heater than the one agreed upon, which could lead to future problems with the unit. In other cases, scammers may take advantage of homeowners who are not familiar with their rights under provincial or federal law and refuse to remove the lien on the home or refund any money paid until a costly legal battle is waged.
How to Protect yourself from a Water Heater Scam?
Considering the above-given incident, the following tips you can take to protect yourself from a water heater scam:
- Never sign a contract for a water heater without reading it carefully and making sure you understand all the terms and conditions. If you do not understand something, ask the salesperson to explain it in detail.
- If you are contacted by a door-to-door salesperson about a water heater, always ask to see their ID and license. If they cannot provide this information or try to pressure you into signing a contract, do not do business with them.
- When considering a water heater purchase, always compare prices between different retailers. Do not sign a contract with a significantly more expensive company than other companies.
- If you have any concerns about a water heater purchase, do not hesitate to contact the Consumer Protection Branch of your provincial government or the Better Business Bureau.
- Never allow a stranger into your home to install a water heater without verifying their identity and license. Do not let them into your home if they cannot provide this information.
- Consider hiring a lawyer if you have difficulty removing a lien from your property. Hiring a lawyer may be more than the amount of the lien, but it is a much cheaper option than losing your home.
- If a water heater company has scammed you, contact the Consumer Protection Branch of your provincial government or the Better Business Bureau to file a complaint.
What to Do if you Have Fallen into the Trap Already?
If you have already fallen victim to a water heater scam, you can do a few things to get your money back.
- Contact the company and ask to speak to someone in the accounting or billing department. Ask them to refund the money you paid for the water heater, and if they refuse, ask to speak to a manager.
- If the company will not refund your money, contact your provincial or federal consumer protection agency. They may be able to help you get your money back or at least file a complaint against the company.
- Contact a lawyer. The lawyer may be able to help you get the lien removed from your property or at least negotiate a settlement with the company.
- Contact the Better Business Bureau. The BBB may be able to help you get your money back or at least warn other people about the company’s scamming practices.
- Spread the word. Tell your friends and family about the water heater scam, and post it on social media. The more people are aware of the scam, the less likely it will succeed.
While there are some things, you can do if a water heater company has scammed you, the best way to protect yourself from a scam is to be aware of the tactics that scammers use.
Are there any Policies Available to Help Homeowners in a Water Heater Scam?
In Canada, there are a few policies that homeowners can look into to help protect them in case of a water heater scam. One policy is called the Consumer Protection Act, which helps protect consumers from scams and unfair business practices. The act covers a wide range of topics, including contracts, door-to-door sales, advertising, etc.
Another policy that may be helpful for homeowners is the Homeowner Protection Act. This act protects homeowners in British Columbia from losing their homes due to a lien. If a water heater company has scammed you and they have put a lien on your property, you may be able to get it removed with the help of this policy.
If you are not sure which policy can help you, contact the Consumer Protection Branch of your provincial government. They will be able to help you find the right policy to protect you from water heater scams.
Be aware that there are a few policies available in Canada to help homeowners protect themselves from scams, and if you have been scammed, contact the appropriate agency for help.
Water heater scams are not something to be taken lightly. If you’ve been approached by someone asking for money, please ensure that they are a trusted organization or individual before handing over any personal information. Thankfully, there is an easy way of checking the validity of your potential donor: ask them what their address is so you can verify it. If they hesitate or can’t give you an answer, it’s probably best to move on.
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Don’t let yourself be scammed – be vigilant and do your research before handing over any cash. Stay safe!