Purchasing a home is a big investment and involves many
responsibilities. It may be overwhelming at times.
Unfortunately, the joy of home ownership may be complicated by
unfair business practices targeted at unwary home owners.
Typically, when buying a previously occupied home, one simply
takes over the previous homeowner's existing water heater
agreement. However, the matter may not end there. In
recent years, there have been growing complaints about water heater
agreements entered into with door-to-door salespersons. In
2011, these agreements were the second most common complaints
received by the Ontario Ministry of Consumer Services. There
is a growing concern that some businesses and salespersons are
using aggressive or misleading practices to pressure homeowners
into entering into rental agreements. There are some simple
tips to avoid being pressured into entering into a water heater
agreement you may come to regret.
Things to Do Before You Sign
First, ask for identification. Sometimes, salespersons try
to enter your home and convince you to sign a new water heater
agreement by suggesting they have been sent by your existing
provider to do a maintenance inspection. In addition, ask
about rental fees, installation, repair and extra service charges,
warranties, and make sure you get all of those details in
writing. Taking such steps will make it less likely that you
will enter into an agreement with hidden fees or surprise terms and
conditions. But make sure the written agreement matches what
you are told. Do not rely on promises. Make sure
everything is in the written agreement.
Even if you find yourself having entered into a water heater
agreement that you wish you could get out of, the Consumer
Protection Act provides several remedies to protect your
rights. For instance, under section 22 of the Act,
all future performance agreements like water heater rentals must be
in writing and a copy of the contract must be provided to the
consumer. The agreement must also give you information on
what your rights are. If it does not, you may cancel the
contract without penalty.
In addition, businesses cannot engage in unfair practices.
Unfair practices include, among other things, false, misleading or
deceptive representations made when entering into a contract.
Unlike in other areas of the law, there is no need to prove that
you relied upon or would not have entered into the contract without
the misrepresentations. As long as the business engaged in
unfair practices during the making of the agreement, you are
entitled to cancel the agreement within a year of entering into
it. In some cases it may not be possible to rescind the
agreement because the return of the goods or services is no longer
possible or because an innocent third party has obtained rights to
the subject matter of the agreement. In such circumstances, a
consumer may commence a legal action and sue for damages
Do You Need a Lawyer?
Given the relatively low cost of typical water heater rental
agreements, it may not seem economically sound to retain a lawyer
to assist in cancelling the contract or pursuing damages.
Many consumers, armed with knowledge of their rights under the
Consumer Protection Act, may wish to attempt to resolve
such a matter on their own. However, some rental businesses
may try to insist on large cancellation fees, usually when the
consumer wishes to have an unwanted water heater removed. In
such circumstances, it may be prudent to seek assistance from a
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