New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer this week announced a series of enforcement actions against the operators of home improvement contracting firms in the Capital Region, Hudson Valley and Southern Tier.
“Home improvement contractors who engage in unscrupulous and illegal business practices that victimize consumers face aggressive legal action by my office,” Spitzer said.
The enforcement actions include lawsuits against seven operators of a dozen home improvement contracting companies and settlements with two firms.
According to legal papers, the companies that were sued persistently demanded large up-front deposits from consumers and often failed to perform any work or complete the project. Many consumers have reportedly complained that the work that was done is substandard and shoddy.
The legal papers further allege that customers have been forced repeatedly to call the contractors, who have failed to show for promised appointments, failed to do warranty repairs and ignored demands for refunds, forcing consumers to turn to Small Claims Court for relief. Those who obtained judgments have been unable to collect upon them.
In filing the lawsuits, Spitzer is alleging that the operators of the home improvement firms (see below) have engaged in deceptive business practices and fraud. In addition, the contractors are accused of failing to comply with the legal requirement that deposits be placed in escrow accounts and with failing to include in their contracts important consumer protection provisions mandated by the Home Improvement Contract Law.
Having received a total of nearly 80 complaints against these home repair companies, Spitzer’s office seeks court orders banning them from the home improvement industry unless they post performance bonds ranging between $40,000 and $100,000.
In addition, Spitzer seeks judgments totaling nearly $270,000 for consumer restitution and over $100,000 in civil penalties and costs. In particular, the lawsuits seek to hold the home repair companies and their operators personally responsible for the fraudulent acts and for any judgments obtained.
Separate from the lawsuits, Spitzer’s office has obtained settlements with two Hudson Valley home improvement contractors.
Kenn Saunders, who does business as U.S. Builders in Sullivan County, agreed to pay over $128,000 in restitution to three consumers plus $7,000 in civil penalties and costs. Consumers complained that U.S. Builders repeatedly failed to complete projects on a timely basis and persistently failed to place consumer deposits in escrow accounts.
Also, David Wright, operator of Stonecraft and Stonecraft Masonry & Stucco Contractors Inc., agreed to pay nearly $20,000 in restitution to at least seven consumers and $2,500 in civil penalties. The Middletown-based masonry business agreed to comply with state laws that require consumer protection provisions in home improvement contracts and to place consumer deposits in escrow accounts.
Since 1999, Spitzer’s office has commenced enforcement actions against nearly 100 owners and operators of more than 130 home improvement companies throughout the state.
Consumers interested in tips on hiring home improvement contractors are encouraged to visit the Attorney General’s Web site at www.oag.state.ny.us/consumer/tips/home_improvement_fact_sheet.html.
Individuals wishing to file a complaint against a home improvement contractor should call the Attorney General’s consumer help line at (800) 771-7755.
These cases are being handled in the Consumer Frauds Bureau by Assistant Attorneys General Matthew Barbaro, Robert Vawter and Amy Schallop and in the Poughkeepsie Regional Office by Assistant Attorney General Nicholas Garin.
Home Improvement Contractor Cases:
Christopher Cromwell, operator of Cromwell Construction and Cromwell Construction Inc.: The Attorney General’s office has received 15 complaints since 2000 against Cromwell’s home improvement companies. The Mechanicville-based businesses operate in Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady and Warren Counties.
The Attorney General’s office is seeking a court order barring Cromwell from the industry unless he posts a $100,000 performance bond. In addition, Spitzer’s office seeks a judgment of at least $165,000 in restitution for consumers and over $20,000 in civil penalties and costs.
Thomas Gordon, operator of Tom’s Asphalt Maintenance: Spitzer’s office has received at least 12 complaints against this Watervliet-based home improvement company. His company operates in Broome, Orange, Dutchess, Rensselaer and Albany counties.
According to court papers, Gordon preys on homeowners, particularly seniors, by knocking on doors and falsely representing that he has extra blacktop left from a different job and will pave their driveways at discounted prices. Gordon then misrepresents the price prior to commencing the project and at the job’s completion demands substantially more for the work than was represented.
Gordon is also accused of shoddy workmanship, failure to remedy defective work or to honor guarantees and failure to make refunds to customers.
Spitzer’s office is seeking at least $16,685 in restitution, $12,500 civil penalties and costs. The lawsuit also seeks a court order banning Gordon from the home improvement industry unless he posts a $50,000 performance bond.
Daniel Leguire, operator of Care Craft Home Improvements, Dan’s Home Improvements, Dan’s Service Plumbing, Home Care Maintenance, Home Care Solutions, BS&J Home Improvements, and CBS&J Home Improvements: These Esperance-based companies are accused of demanding large up-front deposits from customers and either failing to do any work or failing to complete projects that were commenced. The lawsuit also accuses Leguire of shoddy and substandard workmanship, breach of express and implied warranties, and failure to give refunds to homeowners who received little or no service or who were damaged by his poor workmanship.
In total, the Attorney General’s office has received 24 consumer complaints against Leguire’s companies. The lawsuit seeks over $37,000 in consumer restitution and over $38,000 in civil penalties and costs. In addition, Spitzer’s office is seeking a court order forcing Leguire to pay Small Claims Court judgments obtained by consumers and banning Leguire from the home improvement industry unless he posts a $60,000 performance bond.
Leguire, along with his business associates, Colleen Leguire and Brian Leguire – who are also named in the lawsuit – operate their businesses in Fulton, Montgomery, Saratoga, Schenectady and Schoharie Counties.
Leonard Neal, operator of Len’s Remodeling: Spitzer’s office has received at least 19 complaints against this Schenectady-based home improvement contractor. According to legal papers, Neal took substantial deposits from consumers and then either failed to complete the job or failed to perform the work he was paid to do. What little work he does do often is substandard and shoddy and the materials he uses are poor quality. He fails to repair his faulty work, breaches his express and implied warranties, fails to make refunds and consistently breaks appointments.
In addition to seeking a $40,000 performance bond before allowing Neal to engage in home improvement projects in the future, Spitzer’s office seeks more than $13,000 in consumer restitution, and more than $22,000 in civil penalties and costs. The lawsuit also seeks a court order forcing Neal to pay outstanding Small Claims Court judgments obtained by consumers against him.
Neal operates his home improvement business in Saratoga and Schenectady Counties.
Kenneth Rickson, operator of Rickson Remodeling: This Delanson-based business provides vinyl siding installation, replacement doors and windows and roof repairs. Rickson solicits customers by advertising in local newspapers that his work is covered by a “Lifetime Warranty of Parts and Labor.” According to legal papers, after contracting with consumers, he receives one-half the contract price, and he either fails to do any work at all or fails to complete the work. What little work Rickson does complete is often shoddy. Contrary to his advertisements, Rickson fails to repair his defective work or live up to his warranty of workmanship.
In filing the lawsuit, Spitzer’s office is seeking nearly $42,000 in restitution for consumers, over $25,000 in civil penalties and costs and an order forcing Rickson to pay at least three Small Claims Court judgments obtained against him by customers. In addition, Spitzer seeks an order banning Rickson from the home improvement industry unless he posts a $50,000 performance bond.
Rickson operates his home improvement business in Fulton, Rensselaer, Schenectady and Saratoga Counties. Spitzer’s office has received at least nine complaints against him.
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