New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.
An elderly homeowner verbally quoted an estimate of $13,000 for remodeling her home received a bill for $25,000 after the work was completed.
Another homeowner was shocked when a company filed a lien on his house for $10,000 for material used by a contractor but not paid for from contract funds.
These situations could have been avoided through proper use of New York state’s Home Improvements Contracts Law. Because of these and other cases, State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, during his first visit to Plattsburgh since taking office, announced settlements with 47 local home improvement contractors after they were allegedly found in violation of the law.
Schneiderman said the contractors committed widespread violations of the law, including failure to provide written contracts or honor the most basic terms of the consumers’ work agreements.
“It happens all too often, homeowners hire contractors without having a signed contract state that work will be done and how long it will take,” he said. “And many times, they end up with a much larger bill than expected, or with a project that was never started or completed.”
Article 36-A of the General Business Law requires that every home improvement contractor, before beginning work, must provide consumers with a written contract signed by both parties, which outlines certain information and disclosures.
Starting in 2009, the Attorney General’s Office initially sent warning letters to contractors to educate them about the law. But as time passed, most were still not in compliance with the law.
Further investigation found that the overwhelming majority did not follow the most basic provisions of the law, while many did not have contracts for consumers and were oblivious of the law.
During the investigation, a survey of more than 100 area contractors found that 30 percent failed to provide a written contract and 50 percent failed to provide the most basic provisions required by law.
The law requires that the contract must provide proposed starting and completion dates, describe the work, include materials to be provided, and give notice that consumers have an unconditional three-day right to cancel the contract without penalty. The law further requires that advance deposits taken by contractors must be placed in an account at a bank separate from the contractors’ other funds.
“Homeowners need to know their rights and home improvement contractors need to obey the law,” Schneiderman said. “My office will fight to protect consumers’ hard earned dollars and ensure that bad contractors are held accountable.”
Nearly 50 contractors entered into settlement agreements with Schneiderman’s office. They agreed to do home improvement work only under written contracts that comply with the law and to put all advance deposits into a customer account at a local banking institution.
Each of the contractors paid penalties and costs ranging up to $1,500.
Schneiderman added that even when there is a contract, many times it does not include an address for the business or full name of the contractor.
“One very simple tip that consumers can follow when hiring a contractor is to write down the license plate number of the contractor. That will give authorities a better way of tracking the individual down should something go wrong.”
Consumers should also be specific about the work they want done, know permit requirements, shop around, get references and check them, obtain proof of insurance, review licenses, never pay full price up front, put work to be done in writing and know where payments are going.
Contractors on the list:
Chimney Sweep Hearthside Shop, Adirondack Custom Granite, C. Stevens Construction, D & D Home Improvements & Roofing, Gerry Trombley Construction, Greenthumb Landscaping & Snow Removal, JB Carpentry & Fencing, Kustom Contracting, LaVarnway Construction, Laware Blacktopping & Sealcoating, Lee Remodeling, Morrisonville Construction, Painters Plus, Provost Trucking & Blacktopping, Rand Hill Lawns, Relation Poured Concrete, RJR Construction, Roto Rooter, S. Fillion’s Professional Painting, Sage Hill Custom, Saranac Hollow Construction, Trim’s Building & Remodeling’ B & S Construction, Baer Interiors, Ed’s Concrete, High Peak Builders, Jonathan Pribble Excavating, Larry Blanchard Construction, Nawakua Builders, Richard Patnode Plumbing and Heating, Rowe’s Landscaping, Sentinel Construction, Steven E. Fuller Excavating, Brockway’s Concrete Foudnations, Brown’s Construction, Git’ Er’ Done Services, Greenwood Construction, Hot Stuff Heating, J.B. Construction, Richard Patnode Construction, Sawmill Construction, and T. Lamere Contracting.