N.Y. AG Looks to Clean Up Chimney Sweeps Targeting Seniors

December 12, 2005

New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer reported that his office has obtained a temporary restraining order against a chimney cleaning company that reportedly targets elderly Hudson Valley residents for unnecessary repairs.

State Supreme Court Justice James Brands signed the order barring John Delp and Caron Brady, the operators of a series of chimney cleaning and repair companies, from continued violation of consumer protection laws such as the Do Not Call Law and the Home Improvement Contracts Law.

In addition to obtaining a restraining order, Spitzer’s office filed a lawsuit against Delp, Caron and their two current businesses, Flue Season Inc. and All American Service Maintenance Inc. The suit alleges that the defendants conducted business in New York State and New Jersey through a series of corporations which they opened and closed in an effort to avoid liability to their customers.

Spitzer’s investigation reportedly revealed a pattern of soliciting consumers, many of whom were elderly, by phone, and baiting them with low-ball estimates for chimney cleaning services. Rarely, however, was a chimney cleaning all that the consumers ended up purchasing. Using scare tactics about chimney fires or dangerous back drafts, the service men who arrived to clean chimneys reportedly sold consumers on the need for expensive chimney repairs, including caps and liners.

In most cases the work was unnecessary and cost consumers between $1,200 and $3,000. Defendants also violated consumer protection laws by reportedly insisting that the repairs needed to be done immediately, denying consumers the benefits of the legally required three-day cooling off period for cancellations. In addition, the suit says the defendants failed to put any advance deposits into an escrow account as required by law.

Spitzer’s office said that some consumers complained that the “repair” work was poorly done or just partially completed, in some cases creating a dangerous condition. Efforts by these consumers to have poor or incomplete work fixed were reportedly rebuffed or ignored by the defendants.

In filing the lawsuit, Spitzer’s office is seeking a court order barring Delp and Caron from, among other things, engaging in the home improvement contracting business unless they post a performance bond of $100,000. Spitzer also seeks civil penalties, costs and restitution for injured consumers, including nearly $7,800 for seven consumers identified in the lawsuit.

In the past nine years, Delp and Caron have operated under several business names, including Chimney Care Corp., Big Apple Chimney Sweeps Inc., Garden State Chimney Cleaners Inc, and All American Chimney Repairs Inc.

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