Pennsylvania’s new Attorney General, Josh Shapiro, seems to be continuing his predecessor’s pursuit of fraudulent and negligent homebuilders, having filed 31 legal cases in June against residential contractors who violated state law.
Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act
Contractors who perform residential renovations and make at least $5,000 a year are required, on a bi-annual basis, to register their businesses under the Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act (HICPA). HICPA, a state law passed in 2008, established a sort-of data clearinghouse for contractors; anyone offering residential improvement services has to register and, in doing so, submit their business to public criticism.
This requirement extends from businesses incorporated in Pennsylvania to contracting companies based in other states, but performing work in Pennsylvania. Likewise, homeowners satisfied and aggrieved can submit complaints to the Bureau of Consumer Protection, notifying the government that further investigation may be warranted. The end result is http://hicsearch.attorneygeneral.gov/, a database where homeowners can search for individual contractors, find basic contact information and confirm that the business has complied with the state’s registration law.
The Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act also prohibits home improvement fraud, mandates minimal levels of business insurance, outlines required language for renovation contracts and imposes a number of civil and criminal penalties on offenders. The law’s provisions do not affect new home construction; HICPA only governs “home improvement” services.
Attorney General Holds HICPA-Violating Contractors Accountable
The legal actions announced on June 13, 2017 aren’t criminal complaints or civil lawsuits. They’re what the American legal system calls “Assurances of Voluntary Compliance,” essentially settlement agreements entered into by a state’s attorney general and some business who is believed to have violated a consumer protection law. An Office of Attorney General press release says that each of the 31 violators has been fined at least $500:
- Stevens Carpet One Floor & Home, Carrolltown
- A&K Pole Buildings, Harrisburg
- Anytime Heating & Cooling, York
- Beaver Creek Building Supply, New Enterprise
- Rooter Express, Pittsburgh
- Ceykovsky Concrete Construction, Danielsville
- Color Stones, Kinzers
- Freedom Paving Co., Roaring Spring
- Fletcher’s Heating & Air Conditioning Services, Dillsburg
- Jeffrey A. Wilbur Plumbing & Heating, Mechanicsburg
- Everything Under Foot, DuBois
- Kares Krafted Kitchens, Freemansburg
- Kimmel & Kimmel, Hegins
- Carlos Lebron Contracting, Plymouth
- Luzier Construction, Saegertown
- Tommy Mack Sealcoating, Mars
- Melvin E. Cassel Enterprises, Grantville
- Middletown Ice & Coal Company, Middletown
- ServPro of Hershey / Swatara, Harrisburg
- Nelson Construction, Bethlehem
- Petcosky & Sons Plumbing and Heating, Vestral, New York
- Gary Radabaugh Heating & Air Conditioning, Mechanicsburg
- Scicchitano General Contracting, Elysburg
- S.E. Green Plumbing, Heating & Cooling, York Springs
- Shipley Energy Company, York
- Sikora Brothers Paving, Hunlock Creek
- Staley Buildings, Washington
- Nick’s Lawn & Property Maintenance, Fishertown
- Ben’s Home Services, Kingsley
Another 17 contractors received warning letters, while about a dozen voluntarily registered under HICPA after being contacted by state officials.
Pennsylvania Prosecutors Clean Up Construction
“When consumers hire a contractor to work on their home,” Attorney General Shapiro said, “they have a right under Pennsylvania law to work with a legitimate business.” Shapiro credits Pennsylvania’s consumer protection bureau for protecting homeowners from unscrupulous workmen. Home improvement scams (often seasonal “specials” offered by roaming workers) lead to around 13,000 complaints every year, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
Pennsylvania’s previous Attorney General, Bruce Beemer, took decisive action himself, filing suit against Montgomery County’s David Cutler Group, a luxury homebuilder accused of foisting shoddy stucco construction off onto unsuspecting homebuyers. Shapiro succeeded Beemer in the position on January 17, 2017.