Family of 89-year-old woman questions $1,010 smoke alarm charge, threat of home lien

Better Call Behnken

PALM HARBOR, Fla. (WFLA) – The family of an 89-year-old Palm Harbor woman is questioning a more than $1,010 charge for four smoke alarms. 

Dorothy Ahlquist says she called Sarasota-based Bolt Electric because two smoke alarms started beeping in the middle of the night.The technician told her she needed to replace all four alarms. She says the estimate showed a price of $249.

She claims it wasn’t until the work was done, and she paid her final bill, that she learned it was $249 each. Her daughter, Karen, tells Better Call Behnken she has looked up the model number of the alarm and found them for as little as $8 bucks each and as high as $35, on average. 

“She’s 89 years old,” Ahlquist said. “I think they were taking advantage of her and I told them that, and they just didn’t care.”

The alarms are battery backup with minor installation. 

Ahlquist’s daughter, Karen Panarelli, says she called other companies and got estimates for around $250. She then called Bolt to complain and offer the same amount. They balked, she said. So Ahlquist canceled her check and hoped the owner would return her calls to work something out. 

But this week, she received a Notice of Intent to Lien, unless she pays the full amount due, plus a $50 charge for a bounced check.

When asked about that, a Bolt representative said Ahlquist committed “check fraud” by canceling the check. She added that the price she was charged is the same as they charge everyone. 

Better Call Behnken called other electricians and received similar quotes of around $250 for the same job. Some said different companies charge different amounts, depending on their overhead, but they thought $1,000 sounded high.

We’ve emailed the owner of Bolt Electric but have not heard back yet. 

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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