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D.C. sues home renovation company Curbio, says it traps seniors in unfair contracts

District of Columbia Attorney General Brian L. Schwalb is suing Curbio, a company that rehabs owners' homes to prepare them for sale, alleging it targets financially disadvantaged seniors and traps them in contracts so unfavorable they can lead to financial ruin. 

Curbio offers to renovate homes for sale, allowing their owners to defer payment for the services until after they sell their homes. 

"Preparing a listing for market is a big lift. Let us take care of it for you," Curbio's website reads. The company also claims in marketing materials that its clients' homes typically spend fewer days on the market than other listings and that sellers see a great return on investment in its refresh services.

The company claims to fix up properties 65% faster than the competition, and that the average return-on-investment in homes it renovates is 200%. Curbio also said its homes sell 50% faster than those sold as-is. 

Lien on property

But in reality, the company holds a lien on the property and overcharges consumers for unsatisfactory work that often takes far longer than promised, the lawsuit alleges. 

"For many Washingtonians, especially long-term residents, their homes are their primary asset and, thus, primary source of financial stability," Schwalb said in a statement released by his office on Monday. "Recognizing the financial significance the sale of the family home can have for District residents, Curbio targets elderly residents with an unconscionable scheme that lures them in with false promises of quick, high-quality renovations promised to generate heightened sales prices. In reality, Curbio traps consumers with exploitative contracts that threaten them with financial ruin."

Danielle Siler Tyler, a homeowner who engaged Curbio's services said her experience prepping her home for sale was marred by Curbio's bad practices. "With the project delays, unfinished or improperly finished work, inflated prices, and general lack of concern for anything but squeezing every penny from you for subpar work; they turned my family's dream of moving to our new home into a nightmare," she said in the same statement.

How much money you need to afford a house in big cities 03:51

Curbio denied the claims. 

"We strongly disagree with the action taken today. Not only are the assertions made in the complaint without merit, but they also paint a false narrative of Curbio and the valuable services we provide," the company said in a statement to CBS MoneyWatch.

The company insisted that the overwhelming majority of its 200 projects in Washington, D.C., are completed and sold without issue. Curbio said the AG's office "cherry picked a handful of exceptions to the positive experience many of our customers have had, painting a false narrative, using a few isolated instances and generic market data about elderly home sellers."

The AG's office described the experiences of other former Curbio customers, including that of a 86-year-old homeowner and her grandson who signed a $57,640 contract for work the company estimated would take 45 days to complete. Three months past the estimated time frame, Curbio first claimed the work was done, and later failed to address the customers' complaints that the work either hadn't been completed or was not satisfactory.

After an additional three months, Curbio recorded a mechanic's lien against the property to lock the homeowner in the contract, despite the customer's allegation the work was overdue and some of it was never completed, according to the AG's statement.  

The lawsuit seeks to deem Curbio's contracts void and unenforceable, prevent the company from enforcing liens against properties on which work was not performed, and collect damages, among other relief, for affected customers.

Schwalb's office is the first enforcement agency to take legal action against Curbio, which operates nationwide. 

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