When something breaks in your house, you rely on the repairman who comes to fix it.
But how do you know if they're charging hundreds, even thousands for repairs you don't need? Inside Edition rented a house in Montclair, New Jersey, for an entire month, tricking it out with cameras and then calling the fix-it guys to see what happened. The footage was transmitted in real time to a remote command post.
In the first in a special series of investigations, Inside Edition enlisted two experts, Mark McManus with Door Boy and Andrew Cimmino with Christie Overhead Door, to assess the garage door. Both assured it was in perfect working order.
Next, they created a minor problem the experts say any repairman should be able to instantly recognize and fix.
“What were going to do is we are going to purposely misalign one of the sensors. This is going to make the garage door not close. This should be a simple fix for any door dealer that’s not trying to rip you off,” Cimmino explained.
One Sears technician showed up and went straight for the sensors, fixing the problem in a flash.
“It's as simple as turning the sensors,” the man said. “It was a very easy fix.”
Five other repairmen also honed in on the sensors and fixed them for a small service fee.
However, one man from a company called Garage Door Repair from Montclair, New Jersey, noticed the sensors, but when he came back inside the home to talk to Guerrero, his diagnosis was grim.
"Two sensors are dead,” he said.
Listening to the whole conversion in the control room was Cimmino, who said that was not true.
The Garage Door Repair person said the sensors needed to be replaced “no matter what” and took Guerrero back to the garage to deliver more bad news.
“The gear over here is about to break and the sensors are dead,” he said.
The price to fix everything? $720.
But instead of hiring the person to “fix” the issues, Guerrero asked some questions instead.
“Were you just trying to sell me sensors and a motor that I don't need?” she asked.
“It’s dead. I don’t need you to take a picture of me, I’m sorry,” he replied.
“Weren't you trying to rip me off just now?” she asked.
He said he wasn’t.
Next up, two men from a company called Fast Local arrived at the home to check out the garage door.
At first, they spotted the sensors and appeared to fix the door, but then one told Guerrero, “I already know what's wrong, it’s an electrical problem." He claimed that there was a “malfunction” in the electrical unit.
In the control room listening again was Cimmino, who said, “That is completely untrue.”
The repairmen said it would cost $475 to fix, adding, “If you pay cash I can do it for $400 – no tax.”
"I'd like to know why you'd try to charge me $400 for a circuit board that doesn’t need repair?” asked Guerrero.
One of them continued to insist the opener was broken.
“Are you guys trying to rip off people?” she asked.
They said they were not.
“The most important thing a consumer should know is that there are predatory companies out there so make sure you do your homework,” Cimmino said.
Here's how you can protect yourself:
• Check if the contractor is licensed and/or a member of a recognized association that requires certain education and professional standards.
• Check to see if they are listed on the BBB to see what their rating is.
• Get multiple opinions and estimates.
• Ask about any service fees prior to scheduling an appointment.
• Do not pay upfront, prior to the job being completed.
• Make sure they accept credit card or check. Don’t accept cash-only deals.
• Get everything in writing.
• Avoid those who don’t dress or act professionally.
• Avoid contractors who pressure you to make a quick decision.
• Avoid door-to-door repairmen or those who solicit you.
• Look into their online reviews.
• Remember - you get what you pay for. Coupon deals that seem too good to be true usually are.
• Avoid companies with unmarked vehicles. Make sure the contractor you contact is able to tell you the official name of their business.
• Discuss the work you’re looking for before the contractor begins the job. Make sure they know not to proceed with any repairs before discussing the price with you.
• Don’t leave valuables out in plain sight.
• Make sure someone is home during any work that’s being done.