HARRISBURG -Attorney General Tom Corbett announced the filing of a consumer protection lawsuit against a Dauphin County man accused of numerous violations of the Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act (HICPA), including: taking thousands of dollars in consumer payments, but not performing the work; failing to use proper contracts; not notifying consumers of their right to cancel and providing false information to the Attorney General’s Office in his registration as a home improvement contractor.
Corbett said the lawsuit was filed against Fred M. Fink, 540 North 66th St, Harrisburg, doing business as Coldrepair 1 Building & Maintenance, also of Harrisburg.
“Because of the serious nature of the violations that have been reported by consumers, combined with allegations that Mr. Fink lied on his application as a home improvement contractor, we are asking the court to revoke his registration and prohibit him from operating a home improvement or home construction business in Pennsylvania,” Corbett said. “We feel this court action is necessary to prevent Fink from taking advantage of other consumers and to send a clear message that the information submitted by contractors who are registering with the Attorney General’s Office must be truthful and complete.”
According to the lawsuit, Fink failed to indicate that he had a criminal history during the registration process, including prior convictions for theft by deception, forgery and unlawful taking – all of which must be disclosed when registering as a home improvement contractor.
Corbett said Fink is also accused of taking consumer deposits that were substantially larger than allowed by law, in some cases as much as 50% of the contract price, and then failing to do any work or performed work in a shoddy or unsatisfactory manner.
Additionally, Corbett said that Fink is accused of:
Failure to furnish a valid contract.
Not providing proper notice of a consumer’s right to cancel a contract.
Failure to complete work.
Not maintaining required insurance.
Corbett said the lawsuit seeks full restitution for all consumers who have been harmed along with civil penalties of up to $1,000 per violation, or up to $3,000 for each instance involving victims aged sixty or older.
Homeowners are urged to contact the Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection if they have experienced problems with Mr. Fink or Coldrepair 1 Building & Maintenance, but have not yet filed a formal complaint.
Consumers can call the Attorney General’s toll-free Consumer Protection Hotline, at 1-800-441-2555, or visit the Attorney General’s website, at www.attorneygeneral.gov, to submit an online complaint (Click on the “Complaints” button on the front page of the website and select the “Consumer Complaint Form”).
The lawsuit was filed in Dauphin County Court of Common Pleas by Deputy Attorney General Kathryn H. Silcox of the Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.
Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act
Corbett encouraged any consumer considering a home improvement project to verify that their contractor is properly registered with the Attorney General’s Office.
“Since July of 2009, when Pennsylvania’s new Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act went into effect, more than 71,000 home improvement businesses across the state have registered with our office,” Corbett said. “Information about those contractors, including the ability to search for registered professionals in your community, is available in the ‘Home Improvement’ section of our website.”
Corbett also recommended that consumers review additional information about home improvement projects included on the Attorney General’s website, for details about consumer rights and tips for selecting contractors. The list of registered contractors and more details about the Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act is available by clicking on the large blue “Home Improvement” button, located on the front page of www.attorneygeneral.gov.
“The registration system for home improvement contractors is intended to provide consumers with clear information about the businesses they are dealing with, while also giving the Attorney General’s Office and law enforcement agencies the details needed to identify and locate business owners in the event of problems or complaints,” Corbett said. “This law exists to protect consumers, contractors and communities, and it is important that everyone comply with the registration and contract requirements.”
Consumers who do not have Internet access can call the Attorney General’s toll-free Contractor Hotline, at 1-888-520-6680, to verify the registration status of a home improvement business.
After checking a contractor’s registration, Corbett urged consumers to take additional steps to protect themselves from possible home improvement scams, including:
Obtaining estimates from several potential contractors.
Requesting references for recent work, and checking those references.
Asking other customers if they were happy with the work that was performed by a particular contractor, if there were any problems with the project and if they would hire that person again.
Avoiding high-pressure sales pitches, “special offers” or deals on “left over” materials.
Be wary of individuals who approach you with unsolicited offers or stories of “just being in the neighborhood.”
Consumers with questions or complaints concerning home improvement contractors can call the Attorney General’s toll-free Consumer Protection Hotline, at 1-800-441-2555, or visit the Attorney General’s website, at www.attorneygeneral.gov, to access online complaint forms (Click on the “Complaints” button on the front page of the website and select the “Consumer Complaint Form”).