Raleigh homeowner: Chimney sweep left house covered in soot
Posted February 10, 2015
Raleigh, N.C. — A Raleigh homeowner says she has repeatedly tried to contact a company that cleaned her chimney and left her house covered in black soot, including her couch, TV stand, dining room table, carpet and her son’s booster seat.
Erica Kim says she paid $49 through a deal on Amazon Local for a company called duct N dryer to do the chimney sweep. The worker showed up in an unmarked white van with paperwork that listed another company, Air Duct Cleaning. He then charged her an extra $120 based on the size of her chimney and got to work.
“As soon as he starts, instantly the house starts filling in with a black cloud and smoke,” she said. “I asked him if this was supposed to happen. He said ‘no’ and that opening the door will fix the problem."
Kim said the man finished cleaning the chimney in 30 minutes. After he left, she realized how big the problem was. Soot covered everything. She could see the difference in color when she used a wipe on her leather couch.
Kim took out her air filters, which were also coated in soot, and became worried about her 3-year-old son breathing in the air and playing with toys that had been contaminated.
Kim called the company right away and emailed pictures of the mess. She says she was told a manager was figuring out what to do. Despite repeated phone calls, she never heard back, so she contacted 5 On Your Side for help.
The website listed on the contract, HealthyAir.us, takes visitors to a company with yet another name – Healthy Air Duct Cleaning Services. WRAL’s 5 On Your Side reached out to all three companies named in the deal.
An employee at duct N dryer who identified himself only as “Ben” said the company “is not responsible for any damages.” He pointed to a line in the contract that releases them from “any and all liability.” He then said, “Sorry, they’ll have to clean it up,” and hung up.
After checking online, 5 On Your Side found several complaints, including one from October that described the same issue as Kim – a chimney cleaning that left “every surface covered in soot.”
Healthy Air Duct Cleaning Services has an F rating with the Better Business Bureau. As for Kim, she says she’s stunned by the company’s lack of response.
“I feel like a victim in my own home,” she said. “We're dumbfounded. I can't believe they won't even return my phone calls to find an answer for this.”
Amazon Local refunded the $49 Kim paid for the voucher. She had to clean up the mess to make the house livable. She contacted an attorney and still wants the company to get the house professionally cleaned.
Homeowners who want to get their chimney cleaned should check companies' BBB ratings and references and make sure chimney sweeps you hire are certified through the Chimney Safety Institute of America. While that doesn't guarantee a problem-free experience, its members do have to follow a Code of Ethics that includes proper training and professionalism.