HARRISBURG – Two Central Pennsylvania contractors accused of failing to start various home improvement projects, failing to complete work and violating the state’s new Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act (HICPA) are the subject of lawsuits filed this week by the Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.
Attorney General Tom Corbett said the civil lawsuits were filed against Harvey F. Kemmerling Jr., 5029 Circle Drive, Harrisburg, who operates as a home improvement contractor in the Harrisburg area, along with Richard Wells, 6764 Lincoln Highway, Thomasville, operating as Richard Wells Blacktop Paving and Richard Wells Paving in York County.
“Consumers paid thousands of dollars to these businesses hoping to improve the homes, only to be left with incomplete projects, unfulfilled promises and empty wallets,” Corbett said. “We urge homeowners considering improvement projects to fully understand their rights under state law, carefully check the registration status and background of contractors they are considering and immediately report any problems to the Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.”
Harvey F. Kemmerling Jr.
According to the consumer protection lawsuit, Kemmerling has not registered as a home improvement contractor with the Attorney General’s Office, as required by HICPA. He is also accused of collecting deposits that are substantially larger than allowed by state law; failing to inform consumers of their three-day right to cancel a contract; not starting projects in a timely manner; leaving projects unfinished and performing work in a shoddy or unprofessional manner.
“In one case, Mr. Kemmerling allegedly abandoned a garage construction project after collecting a total of $12,600 from a consumer,” Corbett said. “That homeowner was eventually forced to pay another contractor nearly $13,000 in order to repair and complete the work that Kemmerling was supposed to perform.”
Corbett said that Wells is accused of accepting payment from consumers and failing to perform any work; not starting projects in a timely manner; failing to complete projects; performing work in a shoddy or unsatisfactory manner and not informing consumers of their three-day right to cancel a contract.
According to the lawsuit, Wells registered as required, but proceeded to collect deposits that were substantially larger than allowed by state law, including a 77% down payment collected from a homeowner in July 2009. Under the Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act, deposits are limited to no more than one-third of the contract price.
Corbett explained that each of the consumer protection lawsuits seeks restitution for consumers who were victimized along with civil penalties of up to $1,000 for each violation, or penalties of up to $3,000 for each violation involving a senior citizen. The lawsuits also ask the courts to prohibit the defendants from conducting any business in Pennsylvania until all consumer restitution, refunds, civil penalties and court costs have been paid.
The lawsuit involving Harvey F. Kemmerling Jr. was filed in Dauphin County Court of Common Pleas, while the lawsuit against Richard Wells/ Richard Wells Blacktop Paving was filed in York County Court of Common Pleas. Both cases are being handled by Deputy Attorney General Kathryn H. Silcox of the Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.
Consumers who have complaints about either of these businesses, or any other home improvement contractor operating in Pennsylvania, can file complaints by calling the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-800-441-2555 or submitting an online consumer complaint using the Attorney General’s website at www.attorneygeneral.gov (Click on the “Complaints” button on the front page of the website and select “Consumer Complaint Form” from the list that appears).
Selecting a Contractor
Corbett encouraged all Pennsylvania homeowners who are considering home improvement projects to understand their rights and carefully review information about the state’s Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act, which went into effect on July 1, 2009.
“This new law requires written contracts for all projects over $500, including specific information about the total price for a project, a start-date and end-date, details about the materials being used and an explanation of a consumer’s three-day right to cancel a contract,” Corbett said. “The law also requires contractors to register with the Attorney General’s Office and carry a minimum level of insurance.”
All home improvement contractors operating in Pennsylvania are required to provide consumers with their registration number, which must be included in all contracts, estimates and advertisements. Consumers can verify a contractor’s registration by using the “Home Improvement Consumer Information” button, located on the front page of the Attorney General’s website, at www.attorneygeneral.gov, or by calling 1-888-520-6680.
“As of today, a total of 58,914 home improvement businesses have registered with the Attorney General’s Office,” Corbett said. “We encourage homeowners to use this registration system as a tool to help select a contractor suited for their project.”
After checking a contractor’s registration, Corbett urged consumers to take additional steps to protect themselves from con artists or scams, including:
Get multiple estimates.
Get references for recent work, and check those references (ask other consumers if they were happy with the work that was performed, if there were any problems and if they would hire that contractor again).
Research businesses carefully before signing any contract.
Do not feel pressured by “special offers” or deals on “left over” materials.
Be wary of contractors who approach you with unsolicited offers or stories of “just being in the neighborhood.”
Corbett encouraged consumers to file formal complaints with the Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection if they believe they have been targeted by deceptive advertising or high-pressure sales tactics, along with homeowners who encounter unregistered contractors.