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The Diamond Certified<sup>®</sup> Consumer Report masthead
In This Issue
Diamond Certified® Resources
Savvy Consumer Tips

Chris Bjorklund photo
Dear Savvy Consumer,

My “to do” list this time of year is pretty darn long.

One of the first things I like to do is get my chimney cleaned before it cools off around here and we start roasting marshmallows. The creosote build-up can be a fire hazard if not removed on a routine basis.

The next item --- a thorough carpet cleaning. I have to get that job done well before Thanksgiving. Carpet cleaners get super busy starting in November.

checklist

Gotta call the plumber too. I’ve found that getting my drains snaked and cleared prevents bigger problems when the rains come. Roots have a nasty habit of growing through the tile pipes and can cause a back-up in the system (usually right before you’re throwing a big party).

I almost forgot about having a contractor check my stucco for cracks, especially on the south side of the house. Another must-do.

What’s on your fall maintenance list? What should be? Find out in the feature article below in this newsletter.

And don’t forget. Use a top-rated Diamond Certified professional to help you with your fall maintenance projects. Check for Diamond Certified companies in your area in the Diamond Certified Directory or online at www.diamondcertified.org.
 

Sincerely,

Chris Bjorklund
The Savvy Consumer

Fall Home Maintenance Checklist
falling leaves

Living in Northern California, and particularly in the Bay Area, we don’t have to do a whole lot to winterize our homes—no screens to take down or storm windows to install. Still, there are a few important tasks you’ll want to take care of as the weather begins to change.

Ask Chris graphic

Dear Chris,
I’ve accumulated over $100,000 of credit card debt. I missed a payment earlier this year, causing the interest rate on almost all my cards to double or almost triple. Now I can barely make all the payments. What are my options?
Thanks,
Mike

Dear Mike,
New credit card rules go into affect in February 2010 that will prohibit card issuers from raising the rate on an account because the cardholder was late with a payment on an unrelated account (known as “universal default”). Unfortunately, that’s too late to help you.
 
As far as I can see, you have four options:

  • Continue to pay the bills, and ask the card issuers to lower your rates. They don’t have to, but they might if they think that will improve their chances of getting all the money you owe them.
  • Participate in a debt management plan (consolidation). You’ll pay your entire debt over three to five years, but the interest rates might be brought down to as low as 0%, and late and over-limit fees might be waived. The concessions you get depend on who your creditors are. Find a reputable nonprofit credit counseling agency through the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (www.nfcc.org).
  • Try to settle your debt for less than the total you owe. On a debt of $100,000 you would need to come up with a lump sum of, say, $50,000 or $75,000. Also, there will be a tax bill due on the forgiven debt, so you’ll need to have the cash available to pay that at tax time. And, creditors only consider a settlement when the account is significantly past due (three to six months), a status that will wreck your credit score. Whatever you do, don’t hire a company to settle your debt for you. They charge upfront fees that can be 15% or more of the original debt, and some of the companies have even been accused of fraud.
  • You could file for bankruptcy. Obviously, there are some serious repercussions, but sometimes it’s the wisest thing to do. You’ll be better able to make a decision about that after you talk to a credit counselor. Then, if you’re seriously considering this option, talk to a bankruptcy attorney.

Hang in there, Mike. There’s no painless solution to debt problems, but many consumers do dig their way out.

_____________________________________________________
Need advice on a consumer problem? Send your questions to me at ChrisBjorklund@diamondcertified.org. Due to the volume, I cannot respond to each question personally, but will answer one every month in this column.

Kudos from Diamond Certified® Consumers
Kudos graphic

Dear Chris,

I had a difficult situation on a tight schedule and contacted Kevin Farrer of Sonrise Roofing for an estimate. He came out early the next morning.

Kevin gave a fair bid but indicated he was very busy. After I explained my tight schedule he worked my job in the next week. The work took exactly as long as he estimated. He handled a problem which arose in stride and professionally. I can't say how pleased I am with the work of this company. Except for the beautiful new roof and eve trough you would never know they had been there. The yard was spotless when they left. His crew took care around the plantings and did a great job.

Fair bid, timely work, quality work, and he kept his word. What more can you ask for?

Sincerely,
Bob S.
Mountain View, CA

Companies Recently Earning Diamond Certified®

Alameda County
Black Creek Builders, Oakland
S.A.S. German Auto, Pleasanton

San Francisco
Cronin Painting, San Francisco

San Mateo County
AA Custom Audio, San Mateo
Automotive Enterprise, San Carlos

Santa Clara County
Bay Mountain Air, Campbell

Sonoma County
Bavarian Tuning, Santa Rosa

 


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Copyright 2009 American Ratings Corporation