Help

BEFORE purchasing a house or selecting a pest inspection company:

If purchasing a house, hire your own pest inspection company.As stated in an Atlanta Journal Constitution editorial on September 28, 2000, “Those termite letters that lenders ask you to supply, meanwhile, can reflect outright fraud.  The letters are supposed to certify that there is no current or imminent infestation.  But since the seller orders the inspection, some companies feel obliged to give the current owner what they ‘paid’ for -- a clean slate, whether warranted or not. This should change.  Home buyers should arrange for their own termite inspections.”

Become as informed as possible -- and trust your instincts.

For what it’s worth, contact your State licensing agencies.Bear in mind that none of the complaints I submitted to the California State agencies were on file with any of them; however, you may have better results in your state.  (In California, you can run the names of the real estate agents, brokers, and agencies through the Department of Real Estate database; but remember, the DRE found nothing wrong with the behavior of the realtors in our case, indicating undeniable proof of nondisclosure and altering documents, which was placed into their hands, is not reported on their database.)

Go to your County CourthouseCheck for any prior criminal or civil cases against each person and his/her business involved in your transaction.  In our case, I did this after the fact.  What I found was that the seller, both realtors, and Terminix were each named defendants in prior civil cases -- for the same causes of action as in our case. Of course, this information was not allowed in court -- it would be “prejudicial to the jury.”

How to choose a pest control company.

I have repeatedly been asked for the name of a pest control company I would recommend. My answer basically remains the same:  “I am not an expert.  I only know which company I would run from!  My suggestion would be to choose a locally-owned-and-operated company.”  Unfortunately, some people have informed me that after reading this web site, they are switching to Orkin or will now choose Orkin rather than Terminix.

After learning what Orkin did to the Engers (Dursban poisoning; “EPA may restrict widely-used insecticide” and “Suit settled through bankruptcy court,” written by Alex Pulaski and Brent Walth, May 7, 2000, The Oregonian); Collier and Peggy Black; and Elizabeth Allen (Couple Discusses Pest Control Scam), I am quite concerned this web site might in any way contribute to diverting customers from one company to another probably just like it.  I now have two pest control companies on my list of companies to run from as fast as possible.  There are plenty of reputable pest control companies worthy of our business; and I am more convinced than ever that the best choices are locally owned and operated companies.

If you decide not to do business with a company, tell them why.  Companies are in business to make money. The only way they will change the manner in which they conduct business is if they realize they are losing customers.  The only way they can know why they’ve lost our business is if we tell them.

Already Harmed and Need Help?

If you believe you have been harmed by any company, a few suggestions are:

Notify the company. Document and keep records of everything.

File complaints.Again, keep records and document everything. (You can try, and they all need to know; just don’t count on any help.)

File a claim with your homeowner’s insurance.It’s worth a try.  In 1998 when Terminix sued me for defamation in California, someone suggested to me that I file a complaint with my homeowner’s insurance.  I didn’t believe my homeowner’s insurance would cover such a thing, so I didn’t file a claim. When the legal bills became more than we could handle, I started grasping for any lifeline and filed a claim with my homeowner’s insurance company. Sure enough! I was covered -- but only for the expenses incurred from the date I filed my claim.  Had I followed the advice when it was first given, I would have saved my family thousands of dollars. That is why I now make that suggestion.  The worst than can happen is that they will deny your claim.  The best that can happen is that your insurance company will pay to cover the damages and that they will go after recouping their losses.  After all, the insurance companies are far more experienced, knowledgeable, and financially capable to pursue justice than you or me.  Also, there are a few entries on this web site where people have had their repairs covered by their homeowner’s policies.

File a suit in Small Claims Court -- if the amount in dispute is low enough.  Here, you’ll have the opportunity to present your case to a judge without the expense and hindrance of attorneys.

Some legal advice:

I sought legal advice to see what could be done to help a Terminix customer who has been under Terminix’s service contract for 10 years and experiences yearly swarms.  Terminix has now tried to sell him Sentricon for $1700; when, in fact, the service contract states Terminix will provide the necessary service to protect his property. The attorney responded:

They need to file a complaint with the state regulatory agency and ask for an inspection (usually a division of the Department of Agriculture) of their home and Terminix records to see if enough chemicals were ever used.  If the treatment was over five years ago with something besides Chlordane, they need to demand a full retreatment to label directions as the termiticides have worn off or it appears they have, and that allows retreatment under current labels. Depending on what Terminix did, they may be correct about waiting a year to see if swarmers come back. However, it is critical to have the state review the customer file to see if the records show an initial lable rate treatment.  The absence of such records creates the legal presumption in most states that they did not. If the contract does provide that Terminix will do what is necessary to prevent termites and Terminix says Sentricon is needed, they should do that free under the contract as well as the chemical treatment.
TERMINIX'S ALLIES

Pest Control IndustryWhy does the pest control industry allow Terminix to make claims such as: “Best termite guarantee in the business” and “Most comprehensive pest treatment guarantee in the industry?” According to some independant PCO’s, the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) is run by Terminix and Orkin, and the PR wing of the NPMA is Professional Pest Management Alliance (PPMA). One independant PCO stated, “Massey is in charge for the PR group for the NPMA.  They are supposed to be getting the 'good' word out on the industry.”  The PPMA Board of Directors consists of two from Terminix (one is the chairman), one from Orkin, Harvey Massey, one from ABC Pest and Lawn Services, and one from J.C. Ehrlich.  (A web site, Homeowners’ Protection Association: Educating Florida Homeowners about Termite Infestation, was created as a result of a family’s misfortune of doing business with Massey Services.  Massey's name was removed from the site after threats by Massey. The site now includes multiple pest company complaints, primarily Orkin complaints.) No wonder many independant PCO’s who value real service rather than “PR” and heavy-handed silencing of critics by the likes of Terminix, Orkin, and Massey refuse to join NPMA.

Better Business Bureau.  The Better Business Bureaus are a for-profit company; and if the company pays the yearly fee to them, their client (Terminix) is given a chance to answer the complaints against them.  The answer can be that we have repeatedly tried to settle with this client or perhaps we are in contact with them or something like that.  The BBB will then not give out that people are having problems with them.  If you are a small company and do not join the BBB (by paying yearly fees) anyone calling about your company will be told they know nothing about you and recommend that you not use anyone like that, even if you were a previous client, and they had your information. The BBB has given good recommendations for years to people who later found out that there were multiple lawsuits about a particular company.  The complaints were not on file even though the customer filed one himself, so that's no surprise they are no help.  If a case is already in litigation, a complaint may not be filed with the BBB.  Intentionally or not, the failure to report all complaints and lawsuits makes the BBB an ally of the member business -- not an ally of consumers.

Don’t just sit there...

Voice your concerns/opinions, obtain additional information, file complaints, or support consumer groups and reform efforts:

Homeowners Against Deficient Dwellings (HADD).  A consumer protection group for homeowners and home buyers.

LawGuru.com.  Free legal research, questions, and answers.

Get Set, Inc. A must-visit web site with a compendium of information regarding pesticides, pesticide victims (killed or injured), and action alerts.

Informed Choices.  Victims’ stories, hazards of pesticide or chemical use, resource information on the environmental and health effects from “ALL” uses of pesticides or other toxic chemicals, and what is wrong with the system.

National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides.  Non-profit membership organization formed to serve as a national network committed to pesticide safety and the adoption of alternative pest management strategies wich reduce or eliminate a dependency on toxic chemicals. Provides useful information on pesticides and alternatives to their use. With this information, people can and do protect themselves and the environment from the potential adverse public health and environmental effects associated with the use and misuse of pesticides.  Collecting information about people harmed through exposure to pesticides and includes Pesticide Incident Reporting Form.

Federal Trade Commission.  I once filed a complaint with the FTC at their e-mail address for filing consumer complaints, consumerline@ftc.gov.  Don’t expect a response. Although you probably will not receive even so much as an acknowledgement that they’ve received anything, you may send questions or complaints to the Consumer Response Center, Federal Trade Commission, Washington, DC 20580. According to the FTC, they cannot resolve individual disputes; however, the information you provide may indicate a pattern of possible law violations requiring action by the Commission.

  • An article by the California Pest Control Operators, “FTC Investigation of Pest Control Companies Reported,” stated the FTC was conducting an investigation of pest control companies, and “We have prepared some talking points for you should you receive questions from your customers or the media.”
     
  • An article by the National Pest Control Operators, “NPCA Needs State Cooperation,” stated, “We have become aware that the FTC and numerous state attorneys general are mounting a coordinated nationwide investigation of the alleged deceptive practices in the structural pest control industry.”

National Fraud Information Center (NFIC) at 1-800-876-7060, 9 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. EST, Monday - Friday. The NFIC is a private nonprofit organization that operates a consumer hotline to provide service and assistance in filing complaints.  NFIC helps the FTC and the state Attorneys General by entering complaints into a computerized database to help track and identify fraud operators.

U.S. Congress.  Contacting members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.

The First Amendment Project.  Non-profit, public interest law firm established in 1991 to protect, defend, and further the rights to participate in and know about government acitivities and speak freely about public issues.

Public Citizen.  Non-profit organization fighting for safer drugs and medical devices, cleaner and safer energy sources, a cleaner environment, fair trade, and a more open and democratic government. Public Citizen’s Litigation Group is the nation’s preeminent public interest law firm.  Its attorneys bring precedent-setting lawsuits on behalf of citizens in order to protect the health, safety, and rights of consumers. Without their rescue, this site would not be here!

Lawyer Locator.  Use this Locator to find a lawyer by name or to search by location/area of practice, by firm, or for lawyers in corporations, agencies of the US government, or law school faculty.

Pest Control Services, Inc. Nationally recognized as the first entomological consulting practice in the structural pest control industry.

  • Provides technical advice and training in a variety of entomological disciplines.
  • Provides technical expert witness services to the legal community in the areas of wood-destroying organism identification, damage recognition, inspections, treatment, prevention and control.
  • Investigates pesticide misapplication, property contamination, and personal injury.
  • Inspects and analyzes actual and potential pest problems for museums, historic properties, libraries, archives, and their collections. This work culminates in the development of tailored, Integrated Pest Management programs for the protection of these valuable structures and the collections housed within.

Stop Termites Before They Eat Your Wallet.  A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Professional Termite Control Industry.  An E-Book by Thomas A. Parker, PhD.

E-mail Campaign.
As the complaints herein repeatedly illustrate, it is almost impossible to obtain restitution or satisfaction once harmed by Terminix or other ServiceMaster company due to their demonstrated proclivity, governmental inaction, media silence, mandatory arbitration clauses, and high costs of legal representation.  After years of the continued abuses the government has failed to stop and the media fails to report, it’s time we homeowners take the only action left to us.  We can all inform our families and friends via an Internet e-mailing campaign.  If you have not received satisfactory resolution to your dispute with Terminix or other ServiceMaster company, I strongly suggest you inform everyone in your e-mail address book of your complaint and of this website.  Request your recipients forward the information to others in their address books (or better yet, everyone in their address books); and so forth.    By forewarning others, we can help them AVOID the pitfalls !