The majority of South Alabama homeowners are willing to do whatever is necessary to ensure the structural integrity of their homes remains intact, and most people in this area understand that termites are a constant threat on the Gulf Coast. Therefore, while termite protection may be optional for a homeowner in other parts of the country, it is a necessity for Gulf Coast residents.
Unfortunately, termite inspection scams do exist. The best way homeowners can protect themselves and their wallets from such scams is to educate themselves on what pest control scams look like, and on what a proper inspection and treatment should look like.
According to Asurea, many scam artists use cold-calling or door-to-door methods to get customers. When scam artists cold-call households, they usually tell whoever answers the phone that his or her home is due for a termite inspection. When a company sends out door-to-door sales reps, it usually advises the reps to say something along the lines of “Other homes in the area have had termite infestations,” and then to offer free inspections. Most legitimate companies do not cold-call or send people door-to-door to sell services.
Another scam Asurea warns homeowners to be wary of is the free inspection. Savvy con artists will go from home to home and offer free inspections on the spot. If the homeowner agrees, the inspector will “investigate” a bit before showing back up to the front door with a single termite. The homeowners, knowing the damage termites can cause, may sign up for remediation right away. The best scam artists have their equipment on-hand and can perform the job then and there. Little do the victims know is that the “inspector” carries the termite from home to home to scare homeowners into paying upfront for services.
Of course, there is always the real possibility that a home does have termites. Asurea suggests always getting a second opinion from another company before investing in treatment. We recommend that you check with your friends for recommendations and that you investigate the company online before signing a contract.
In Alabama, there are laws that regulate Termite companies and require that an initial treatment be performed by the termite company in accordance with regulations and label requirements. We see many cases where an initial treatment is not correctly performed, and therefore an effective barrier against Termites is never placed on the home. There are times where the treatment is not performed because the Termite company simply does not understand the type of treatment necessary for a home of a particular type of construction. Other times, we see efforts to shortcut the chemicals applied out of plain laziness, or in order to cut costs and/or time so as to move on to the next customer.
New homeowners should also be aware of what we refer to as the “Realtor’s Special.” When you purchase a home, you will usually be furnished with a Wood Infestation Inspection Report. That document will be presented to you at closing along with a termite contract that you sign. In many instances, the termite company may get the job because it offered a “realtors special” to the listing real estate agent. For example, the termite company might offer to perform the Wood Infestation Inspection Report and provide a first-year contract for a total of approximately $195.00. This is a very low charge for that work.
Under the theory that you get what you pay for, when we see these types of prices from companies, it could indicate that the Termite company is struggling to obtain customers, and sometimes indicates to us that the customer did not receive a thorough inspection or initial treatment on the home. In short, if you purchase a home, you should investigate the company that issues the wood infestation report and the first-year contract on the home, and ensure that the company is legitimate, has proper amounts of insurance, and has no disciplinary record with the Alabama Department of Agriculture.