Some well-known home improvement contractors in the north country landed in hot water with New York's attorney general.
AG Eric Schneiderman says he has reached a settlement with 35 Watertown-area contractors for violating state law.
According to Schneiderman, an investigation by his office found widespread violations of the state's Home Improvement Contracts Law.
Some of the violations included failure to provide written contracts and failure to honor the most basic terms of consumers' work agreements.
See the list of local contractors
Across New York, 211 home improvement contractors signed an agreement with the AG to end unlawful conduct and pay penalties and fines.
Here's the breakdown of regions where settlements were reached:
- Binghamton (48)
- Buffalo (31)
- Rochester (28)
- Syracuse (16)
- Utica (18)
- Watertown (35)
- northern Westchester and Putnam (8).
The contractors have agreed to do home improvement work using only underwritten contracts that comply with the law and to put all advance deposits into a customer account at a local banking institution.
Each of these contractors paid penalties and costs ranging up to $1,500.
The law requires that every home improvement contractor, before beginning work, must provide the consumer with a written contract, signed by both parties, which sets out certain specific information and disclosures.
For example, the contract must:
- Provide proposed starting and completion dates
- Describe the work to be done
- Include materials to be provided
- Give notice that the consumer has an unconditional three-day right to cancel the contract without penalty
In addition, the law requires that any advance deposits taken by the contractor must be placed into an account at a banking institution separate from the contractor's other funds.
The contractor must notify the consumer of the banking institution at which the deposit is kept.
Consumers should take the following precautions when hiring home improvement contractors:
- Be specific about what work you want done
- Educate yourself about the required permits - don't rely solely on the contractor
- Shop around
- Get references and check them
- Get proof of insurance from the contractor
- Check licenses (if required)
- Never pay the full price upfront
- Always put work to be done in writing
- Know where your payments are going
- Never do business with a contractor who is unwilling to abide by any of the conditions above
If consumers feel they have been victimized, they are urged to contact the Attorney General's Consumer Helpline: 1-800-771-7755.
Share Your Thoughts for Your Turn or leave a comment on our Facebook page