OREGON CITY, Ore. (KOIN) — A local landscaper accused of ripping off senior citizens for nearly 2 decades is being sued by Oregon’s attorney general.
The state filed a lawsuit against Oregon City resident Al Sievers for unlawful trade practices and financial abuse of vulnerable people. He allegedly “has a pattern of targeting senior citizens” who hire him to install and fix their sprinkler systems.
There have been 17 complaints filed against Sievers going back almost 20 years.
Marge and David Kolander told KOIN 6 News about their experience with the landscaper. They hired Sievers in April when sprinklers at their Washington County home wouldn’t shut off, resulting in a stream of water running down their street.
They recalled getting a service agreement from Sievers with only small charges on it, such as a gas surcharge, a service call fee and acknowledgment of his hourly rate.
“Then he says, ‘I need your signature so I can begin work,'” Marge said. “I thought, I don’t know, so I signed it… when it was blank.”
Her account matches the state’s lawsuit against Sievers, which accuses him of targeting seniors who he “induced into signing blank contracts or invoices.”
The lawsuit also accuses him of charging fees that were exorbitant compared to industry standards, which the Kolanders said was also the case for them.
“David comes out… and says, ‘what does a unit like this run?’ It’s already on the wall and Al says ‘oh, 14-95’ and I remember saying ‘$14.95, boy they’re cheap’ and then he says ‘$1,495,'” Marge recalled. “Wow, that’s expensive.”
Rain Bird, the company that makes the sprinkler control unit Sievers installed, said the current listing price for the indoor model is $140 and $173 for the outdoor one.
“Thanks for bringing light to this issue and helping to warn consumers,” Rain Bird spokesman Alex Nathanson wrote in an email to KOIN 6 News. “There are lots of good contractors out there who do great work, but bad apples like this potentially hurt our brand reputation and do a disservice to the entire industry.”
Sievers billed the Kolanders more than $500 and another $2,300, saying they needed a lot of work done. They decided to cancel the check and hire someone else.
“The whole bill was $350,” Marge said.
The attorney general sent the couple a letter saying they will likely be called to testify against Sievers, who is fighting the accusations, when he goes on trial in August.
Sievers’ attorney provided KOIN 6 News with the following statement:
“Al Sievers has owned and operated his sprinkler design, installation and repair business for over 40 years. Mr. Sievers takes all complaints very seriously. He and his wife of 48 years do their best to amicably resolve the relatively small number that are made. With an impending trial set for next month, Mr. Sievers does not wish to provide any further comment at this time. He looks forward to a jury of his peers deciding his case, and does not want to influence the legal process before the trial.”
So what can you do to make sure you don’t hire contractors looking to take advantage of customers? There are lots of complaints against Sievers on Yelp, the attorney general’s website and the landscape contractor’s board.
But the best advice when hiring a contractor is: Ask a friend for a recommendation.