Mail Tribune – Money Goes Down the Drain

Money Goes Down the Drain

Latino family alleges firm sold it unneeded water filtration system

Top Photo
Teodoro Perez, 40, stands with a water filter that a salesman from American Home Solutions claimed his family needed. Jamie Lusch

March 16, 2009

By Chris Conrad

Mail Tribune

When the salesman told Teodoro Perez his tap water was poisoning his family, Perez decided to buy the $5,000 filtration system the man was selling to keep his loved ones safe.

The pitch was convincing. The salesman from American Home Solutions, based in Roseville, Calif., knocked on the door of Perez’s north Medford home last summer and asked whether he would agree to a free test of his water quality.

The man filled a vial from Perez’s tap, added a couple drops of an unnamed chemical, and watched as the water turned a light shade of yellow.

“He said my water was very bad, and if I loved my family I had to do something,” Perez said.

That something was to buy the American Home Solutions $5,000 filtration system to clear out excessive chlorine levels in the water. The company sent a plumber to Perez’s home soon after to install the unit.

Perez signed on the dotted line, but soon found his payments, which started at around $130 a month, quickly spiked in subsequent weeks. As it turns out, American Home Solutions did not tell him about the 18-percent interest rate tied to the purchase. In all, the system was going to cost Perez around $8,000.

On top of the cost, the plumbers did not do a good job installing the system, and the drawer under Perez’s sink has suffered water damage from faulty pipe work.

“And then I went to the water commission and they told me Medford’s water is very good and I didn’t need such a system,” Perez said.

In fact, Medford ranks high in the nation for clean drinking water, according to the American Water Works Association. The city routinely competes in contests across the country to determine which United States cities have the best drinking water.

Perez, who is legal citizen of the United States, told a friend about his situation and was referred to the Help Now! advocacy center.

“We have known of this scam affecting those in the Latino community,” said Larry Kahn, executive director of Help Now! “We have found at least four other Latino families who have bought this system from American Home Solutions.”

A quick Google search of American Home Solutions turns up several consumer complaints against the company. Phone calls to the business seeking comment for this story were not returned.

The business is not licensed to conduct plumbing work in Oregon, according to the state’s contractor board.

Help Now! advocates were able to contact American Home Solutions officials to see about getting Perez a refund. At first the company refused, but when presented with evidence that it is not a licensed plumber in Oregon, the company relented, Kahn said.

Perez said the company agreed to stop charging him for the system, but has not yet returned to remove the system.

“If they did come back I would want my lawyer here, because I think they would do more damage removing it,” Perez said.

Medford police Sgt. Kevin Walruff, who specializes in financial crimes, said the department has received one complaint from a Latino family who purchased a water filtration system from American Home Solutions.

“We ask that you always ask to see a company’s permits and business license if you are solicited at your door,” Walruff said.

Perez was glad to settle the matter, but now is wary of door-to-door salesmen. He was laid off from his full-time construction job last fall and doesn’t have a lot of money to waste.

Some of the families who bought the system do not want to fight to get their money back, Kahn said.

“They tell us it is working — which it does — but is not needed, and this company does not have the right to work in this state,” Kahn said. “They would get the same result if they bought a $25 charcoal water filter to screw onto their faucet.”

Perez said he was depressed and embarrassed by the situation, but hopes others will not fall for the sales pitch if the company returns to Medford.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 776-4471, or e-mail cconrad@mailtribune.com.

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