Nailed: A fraud prevention and compliance blog

Written by Elizabeth Smith,
L&I's Assistant Director for
Fraud Prevention and
Labor Standards

Apr. 16, 2011

Paving scam leaves homeowner all broken up

An impulse driveway repair left this Cathlamet man with nothing but rocks.

Kent Johnson says he had been considering repaving the driveway of his Puget Island vacation home, when one day a professional looking man appeared at his door and offered to do the job.

“He was very friendly, and said he had gravel and material left over from another job down the road,” Kent recalls. “He said he would do it for half price.”

Kent was promised the driveway would be a sealed gravel material which would last for 18-20 years.

It never occurred to Kent that he should check if the man was a state-registered contractor. The workmen were on site and the materials were ready to go, so he agreed.

When work stopped, Kent was shocked to discover only half the driveway was completed. When Kent insisted he assumed the price included the entire driveway, he was told the price would rise if they were to do the remainder. At that point, Kent knew he was dealing with a scam artist.

“I got in their face and told them I knew they were a fraud,” he recalls. “Fortunately I was able to stop payment on the check I gave them before they cashed it.”

A few months later, Kent’s driveway is full of loose gravel. Weeds are coming through on the sealant that was guaranteed to last years. Kent knows now, he fell victim to a smooth-talking sales scam. This driveway paving scam is something L&I compliance officers see every summer.

“As soon as it warms up outside, we start getting complaints of these traveling driveway pavers,” said Rich Ervin, specialty compliance program manager at L&I. “Usually by the time the homeowner realizes he has received shoddy work, the workmen have left the area and are untraceable. Since the contractor isn’t registered, insured, and bonded, homeowners have no recourse. They have to fix the poor workmanship at their own expense.”

The driveway paving jobs can go bad in a number of ways, including:

  • Sub-par materials, including watered-down asphalt;
  • Asphalt poured too thinly, allowing grass and weeds to pop through;
  • Little or no attention to the driveway’s foundation, causing cracking and breakage later on;
  • Drainage problems.

Be wary of any contractor offering door-to-door services, using high-pressure sales tactics encouraging you to act now. Take the time to follow L&I’s guidelines at before starting any home improvement project.
Kent learned the hard way.

“If it sounds too good to be true, it is,” he warns.

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