Seal A Drive ripoff Ruined my driveway. Refused to complete job per Building Inspector instructions, then billed me anyway. Devon Pennsylvania
I first became aware of Seal-A-Drive in June 2005 when I came across their coupon in the Clipper Magazine that is distributed to Brookhaven residents. They were one of the first organizations that I contacted for an estimate. When I first called, an answering machine prompted me to leave a message. So, in as much detail as possible, I described the work I needed to have done, and asked if someone could provide me with a pricing estimate. About a day later, a receptionist returned my call. Again, in as much detail as possible, I described the nature of the work I needed to have done:
1)I needed to have the width of my driveway extended. The extension was to be equal in size to my existing driveway, in effect doubling the size of my driveway so that two cars could park side by side. I was very clear that the point of the job was to ensure that two cars could park side by side in my driveway.
2)I needed to have the concrete apron / entranceway widened to match the width of the expanded driveway. In addition, I needed the grading of the concrete apron / entranceway to be a bit less steep than the existing apron, so that my wife's car would not bottom out upon entering / exiting the driveway.
The receptionist indicated that someone would inspect my property, complete a written estimate, and leave it in my mailbox.
On June 20, 2005, an estimator from Seal-A-Drive inspected my property. However, no estimate was provided. I left several phone messages over the next two weeks. Finally, on July 11, 2005, the owner, Frank Cusumano, sent the estimate via fax. The quoted price was $2,400.
Upon receiving the estimate, I contacted Mr. Cusumano and asked if his estimate included a sealcoating of the existing section of driveway. (I asked this question because I had received other estimates that did include the sealcoating of the existing driveway.) Mr. Cusumano agreed that his estimate would include this sealcoating.
At this point, I had already received two additional estimates, one for $2,900 and one for $3,600. I was waiting for one final estimate from Rando Construction. When Rando provided me with their final estimate on July 29, 2005, it was for $2,500. In addition, they were willing to start within the next week, as they had already committed to another driveway job on my street. However, I informed Rando that I would move forward with Seal-A-Drive, given that they had provided the lowest estimate. I then contacted Mr. Cusumano, informed him that he had won my business, and asked that he begin the work as soon as possible.
I spoke to the borough Building Inspector, on several occasions regarding a building permit. During these conversations, he indicated that several criteria needed to be met in order for the job to be considered in compliance with the building code. I clearly communicated these criteria to Mr. Cusumano to ensure that all work would be performed to code. The criteria included:
1)Surface water could not run from the driveway toward my neighbor's property, even though there were several feet of land between the edge of my driveway and the beginning of my neighbor's yard.
2)Twelve inches below street with front of curve.
3)The apron had to be six inches thick with 3,500 lb. concrete.
As I reviewed the criteria with Mr. Cusumano, he expressed some uncertainty regarding his ability to complete the concrete apron portion of the job for the previously agreed upon price. I reminded him that his written estimate was broken down into two line items: $1,050 for the concrete work and $1,350 for the asphalt work. In addition, I reminded him that his estimate was not out of line with my other estimates. There was no further disagreement. At that point, I believed that the issue had been settled.
By the time I had received my permit from the Building Inspector, and Mr. Cusumano had completed all of his paperwork with the borough, it was late August. The Seal-A-Drive crew began the job on Monday, August 29, 2005. They cut the curb and dug the hole where the concrete apron was to be poured, damaging the street in several places. In addition, rather than simply sealcoating the existing driveway, they covered it in new asphalt, significantly increasing the height on that side. As a result, the driveway sloped dramatically toward my neighbor's yard. My neighbor called the Building Inspector, who arrived at my property and immediately halted all work due to the fact that water would clearly flow toward my neighbor's property.
Mr. Cusumano called me at work and informed me that the Building Inspector had shut down the job. Mr. Cusumano said that he was not certain why the job had been halted. He asked that I speak to the Building Inspector myself in order to resolve the situation. On my way home from work that day, I could clearly see from half way down the street as I approached my house that the driveway was sloping drastically toward my neighbor's property. The crew had built on top of my existing driveway, elevating that side significantly. It looked more like a sloped platform than a driveway. Not only was it aesthetically unpleasant, it was a safety hazard.
The Building Inspector informed me that the driveway had to be quickly fixed so that water would not run toward my neighbor's yard; otherwise, they would take me to court. I called Mr. Cusumano and explained why the job had been halted. In addition, I informed him that his crew had built on top of my existing driveway, instead of simply sealcoating it. He was surprised by this, and quite frustrated. Given that the driveway was now elevated much too high off the ground, my preference was to have Mr. Cusumano undo the damage by removing the asphalt that his crew had erroneously poured on top of my existing driveway. However, I told Mr. Cusumano that I felt bad that his crew had made such as egregious error, using much more asphalt than should have been needed, and costing him more than he anticipated. I told him that I did not want to ask him to pull up the asphalt that had been poured in error. I asked him if he thought that he could solve the water flow issue by building up the new side of the driveway with some additional asphalt, causing the water to flow in the other direction, toward my front yard. Mr. Cusumano indicated that this was feasible, and that he preferred this approach to the alternative of removing the erroneously poured asphalt.
The Seal-A-Drive crew returned two days later on Wednesday, August 31, 2005. They poured some additional asphalt on the new (lower) side of my driveway. When I returned home from work that day, I saw that the slope had been decreased a bit, but not eliminated. It was obvious that water would still flow toward my neighbor's yard. Still, I contacted the Building Inspector and asked him to inspect the work. When he did, he informed me that the work still did not meet the requirements of the borough's storm water management ordinance. I asked him if there was any way to bring the job into compliance, short of removing all of the asphalt and starting over. He stated that removing all asphalt and starting over was the best course of action. However, he indicated that the job could be brought into compliance if Mr. Cusumano would build a barrier along the side of the driveway, using 6 by 6 pressure treated lumber, which would act like a curb. The barrier would have to be tall enough to keep the water from running over. In addition, it would have to be waterproofed, so that the water would not seep through toward my neighbor's yard.
When I called Mr. Cusumano and informed him of the Building Inspector's instructions, he stated that he would need more money than the $2,400 that had originally been agreed upon. Although I was not happy about this tactic, I really wanted him to finish the job. So, I offered to pay him $2,700 upon completion of the entire job (driveway and apron), $300 more than I originally agreed to pay, and $200 more than what Rando Construction would have charged. Mr. Cusumano agreed to my offer and stated that he would have my job completed within a week.
On several occasions over the next few weeks, Mr. Cusumano promised to have the job completed, but never showed up. He became more and more difficult to reach by phone. I called and left messages several times per week during the weeks of September 4 and September 11, and again on September 19. Finally, on September 19, Mr. Cusumano left me a voice mail stating that I would need to get someone else to finish the job, and that he would contact me to discuss how much I owed him.
On September 19, I called Rando Construction and asked the owner, Tom Rando, to provide me with an estimate on how much it would cost to bring the driveway up to code, pour the concrete apron, and repair the damage to the street. When Mr. Rando arrived at my home on September 26, he looked at the driveway, shaking his head in amazement and said You didn't pay this guy anything, did you? Mr. Rando strongly recommended that I have him remove the asphalt that had been poured by Seal-A-Drive, so that he could install a properly graded driveway that was not elevated so far above the ground. I agreed. However, since so much more work was required to correct the problems created by the Seal-A-Drive crew, Mr. Rando had to charge me $3,950. This was a full $1,450 more than he would have charged if he hadn't needed to remove the existing asphalt and repair the damage to the street.
Although I felt that Seal-A-Drive was directly responsible for me having to pay $3,950 instead of $2,500, I decided that I would not pursue the matter any further. However, unbelievably, Mr. Cusumano continued to call me and send invoices claiming that I owed him money. I called and reminded him that he did not complete any of the work that we had agreed upon. The work that he did do was never in compliance with the building code, was aesthetically unpleasant, and was a potential safety hazard. I would have gladly paid him if he had simply returned to finish the job. However, he abandoned the job. Therefore, I was not going to pay him. In addition, I informed him that I would not be taking action against him, even though I strongly believed that he owed me $1,450. I recommended that he move on, as I had done. However, he expressed his intention to sue me for his time and materials. Shortly thereafter, I received a notice from my local District Court informing me that Seal-A-Drive had filed a civil complaint against me. A hearing has been scheduled. For several reasons, I have decided to submit a counter claim against Seal-A-Drive. First, my wife and I had to park our cars on the street for over three months. Luckily, neither of our cars were hit during this time, although they were at risk on a daily basis. Second, as a direct result of the actions of Seal-A-Drive, I had to pay nearly double what I would have paid if I had given the job to Rando Construction from day one. Third, the negligence and carelessness shown by Seal-A-Drive was all the more egregious given the fact that I went to such considerable efforts in communicating back and forth with Mr. Cusumano and the Building Inspector regarding job specifications and building code requirements. I feel obligated to pursue this claim not only to receive justice in my own case, but to discourage Seal-A-Drive from repeating such harmful business practices in the future.