Lafayette woman struggles to terminate pest removal charges

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When an East Bay homeowner heard a mysterious noise in her ceiling, an exterminator said she had rats. But she later found out rats were not the problem. (KGO-TV)

When an East Bay homeowner heard a mysterious noise in her ceiling, an exterminator said she had rats. But then she found out rats were not the problem.

Judith Reed believed the assessment that rodents were spreading through her property. She agreed to pay thousands of dollars to set bait and traps only to find out she was in a kind of trap herself.

It all began with the scratching sound in the cottage behind Reed's Lafayette home. "We just figured it was as squirrel," she said.

The critter kept scratching and plaster fell from the ceiling. "I was concerned it was a rat," Reed said.

She called Terminix to come get rid of whatever it was.

"I wanted them to cut a hole in the ceiling and then let it out," Reed explained.

Instead, the sales person told her this was a much bigger problem - she had rats.

"He says if you've got rats in the cottage, you've got them in the house," Reed said.

Not only that, the salesman said Reed had termites. She needed traps for the bugs and the rats.

"By that time, I was so worried that I was going to have rats coming up the side of my house," Reed remembered.

She agreed to pay $4,500 for all the pest control. The only thing it didn't include was cutting the critter out of the ceiling.

"In fact, he didn't even want to go inside to look at it," she said.

However, when technicians came to set the traps, they gave her another surprise. "They looked and said, 'There are no rats here,'" Reed recalled.

It turns out she didn't have rats or termites. As for the critter, "It was a squirrel, as we very first thought. And I realized I had been sold a bill of goods I didn't need," she said.

Reed called to cancel the contract. Instead she started getting bills for monthly payments.

It turns out Terminix had set her up with a loan at 18 percent interest. She says nobody asked her first.

"I never received a contract. Everything was done on the inspector's telephone. I just went like this (swiping her finger) and signed with my finger," she said.

Reed contacted 7 On Your Side and we told Terminix what happened.

The company agreed to cancel the contract, telling us, "Our sales professionals take time to carefully inspect each home and review the service contract with our customers before it is signed. However, misunderstandings can occur...As the satisfaction of our customers is one of our highest priorities, we have honored our customer's request to cancel the agreements."

As for the squirrel in the ceiling, Reed says it found its own way out. "And I'm glad that it's over with, and I don't have rats."

Make sure you read a contract before you sign, especially on a handheld device.

Increasingly, companies are handling business on phones or tablets but don't sign if you haven't seen the details of the contract you are signing.

Related Topics:
business7 On Your Sideconsumerconsumer concernspestsratsLafayette
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