July 24, 2014
Attorney General Kane takes legal action against eight home improvement contractors operating across the Commonwealth
HARRISBURG - Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane today announced that the Office of Attorney General's Bureau of Consumer Protection filed eight legal actions involving home improvement contractors in counties across the Commonwealth including, Allegheny, Dauphin, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Monroe, Susquehanna, Warren, and Westmoreland.
Combined, the contractors agreed or were ordered to pay a total of more than $130,400 in consumer restitution and civil penalties.
The legal actions include five Assurances of Voluntary Compliance (AVC) with:
Additionally, final Court orders were entered in legal actions involving:
The legal actions involved compliance with Pennsylvania's Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act (HICPA), addressing issues of non-registration; failure to maintain current registration; failure to use HICPA-compliance contracts; failure to perform contract services in a workmanlike manner; failure to complete contract services; failure to provide consumers with the three-day cancellation notice; and failure to restrict deposits to one-third of the total sales price, at the time of contract signing.
HICPA requires home improvement contractors operating in Pennsylvania to register with the Office of Attorney General's Bureau of Consumer Protection, maintain minimum insurance coverage and use contracts that contain important information about home projects, including the start date and completion date, a description of work being performed and consumers' rights under the law.
Additionally, HICPA requires contractors to disclose whether they have had a license suspended or revoked by any state or municipality or have been barred from any government-funded home improvement program. They must also indicate if they have been convicted of certain crimes, including home improvement fraud, theft or crimes of deception, or have filed for bankruptcy.
Contractors are required to include their registration number on all advertisements, estimates and work proposals, and no home improvement contract is valid unless it is clearly written and contains the contractor's registration number, detailed information about the proposed work and is signed by both the contractor and the homeowner.
Contractors must also provide consumers with a notice of their three-day right to cancel the contract. The notice must be provided orally, in the contract itself and in a separate form.
Failure to comply with HICPA may result in civil and criminal penalties under the law, as well as a requirement that injured consumers receive restitution. Contractors should visit the Office of Attorney General's website at www.attorneygeneral.gov to register or call 717-772-2425 for an application or answers to questions.
Consumers should check to be sure the contractor is registered with the Office of Attorney General's Bureau of Consumer Protection by visiting the online database at www.attorneygeneral.gov or by calling 1-800-520-6680. Registration alone does not guarantee that a contractor will do a good job, nor is it an endorsement or a recommendation by the Office of Attorney General.
Attorney General Kane also recommends that consumers:
Know the costs: Before you begin your home improvement project, look at your personal finances and household expenses to determine if you can afford it. Keep in mind, some home improvement projects can be as costly as purchasing a new car.
Plan it out: Take time and carefully plan out your home improvement project. Planning will help you or your contractors estimate costs and time, allowing you to budget your project appropriately.
Know what permits are required: While planning, be aware that local municipalities may require permits for home improvement projects and for certain specialized work. Talk to your municipality and find out if permits are required. For instance, plumbers and electricians are licensed specialties in some municipalities. If your project involves major plumbing and electrical services, you will want to make certain your contractor is licensed.
Before you dig: Timely contact local utility providers if your plans include excavating or digging. This will allow the utility companies to mark off areas around your home to help avoid a hazardous or dangerous situation.
Hiring Contractors: While most home improvements contractors operate an honest business, there are those who engage in deceptive practices and defraud consumers of large sums of money.
Before entering into a contract with a home improvement contractor make sure you:
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