Liquidating an estate is a difficult time, especially for those who have lost a loved one. Unfortunately, San Antonio-based Clean Sweep Estate & Garage Sales has made a hard time even worse for some families by conducting estate sales without turning over the proceeds.
The company claims to liquidate properties through estate sales, but consumers report receiving excuses, incomplete inventory of sold items and no money. Consumers typically find the Clean Sweep Estate & Garage Sales through the company’s website and advertising in online directories and forums.
As of April 3, 2014, Better Business Bureau serving Central, Coastal, Southwest Texas and the Permian Basin received 20 complaints against Clean Sweep Estate & Garage Sales in the last 12 months. The business has failed to address consumers’ concerns regarding 25 complaints. The business resolved some complaints by making payments to the consumer. However, the business has not responded to BBB complaints since August 2012.
Complaints about Clean Sweep Estate & Garage Sales had a common theme: Consumers said the business did not deliver the services it promised. Complaints state that consumers hire the business to sell estate items, but never receive payment. Complaints also state the company is unresponsive when consumers inquire about when the payments will be made.
BBB contacted the business by mail and phone about its pattern of complaint, but received no response. Calls went directly to voicemail.
Keri Rutherford of New Braunfels said she contracted with Clean Sweep Estate & Garage Sales to conduct an estate sale. She said she never received any money from the sale and is owed approximately $7,000.
“She [owner Janet Holland] came to the house and gave a really good talk. I arranged to have her conduct a three-day sale in October. I contracted with her and was to be paid Nov. 15. That came and went a long time ago,” she said. “The first day before she started the sale, there were already a few items missing. She said she had taken some items home. I said ‘You’re going to pay for them right?’ and she said she would bring them back.”
Rutherford said the company also failed to turn over promised receipts for unsold items that were to be donated to charity.
“I got no money, not even an itemized list,” Rutherford said. “I called her several times and always got some excuse. Then she stopped answering. The office number was disconnected and she wouldn’t answer her cellphone.”
Better Business Bureau offers the following advice to help select a trustworthy estate sale service:
- Start with trust. Check out any business at bbb.org to view their BBB Business Review free of charge. There you will find the company’s history of complaints and contact information. For a list of Accredited Businesses, go to checkbbb.org.
- Shop around. Set up appointments to interview at least two or three services. Ask a trusted realtor, banker or attorney for recommendations.
- Do your research. Before setting up an initial consultation, ask how long the estate sales agent has been in business, whether they are members of professional associations, if they are bonded and insured, and if they can provide professional references.
- Ask about fees and commissions. What percentage of the proceeds will the business keep for commissions? Will you be responsible for any up-front or out-of-pocket costs (appraisals, security measures, trash removal)?
- Find out when and how you will be paid. When are the sales proceeds paid to you and how (cash, cashier’s check)? Will you receive an itemized list of everything that was sold?
- Know what you’re signing. Do not sign a contract unless you understand the services to be provided, out-of-pocket fees you’ll be charged and how and when you’ll receive payment of the sales proceeds.