The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

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May 24, 2014

Montour County DA: Watch out for hailstorm shysters

— The Montour County District Attorney’s Office has been contacted by members of the public who have expressed concern regarding an almost immediate response of door-to-door solicitations by alleged contractors who are offering to fix storm damage. While there are many reputable local contractors available to repair storm damage, many scam artists take advantage of such a situation to bilk consumers of their money.

The public should be aware that contractors conducting business in Pennsylvania are required to register with the Office of Attorney General, Bureau of Consumer Protection. Each registered contractor is then issued a certificate of registration and a registration number.  

This registration number is required to be included on most contracts, estimates and proposals, with very few exceptions.

Contracts are to be in writing and contain certain specific information, including the approximate start date, completion date, description of work, and total sales price.  All parties must sign in order for the contract to be valid and enforceable.  The homeowner must be provided with a complete copy.

Homeowners generally have the right to cancel any contract within three (3) business days of signing.    

Homeowners should also be aware that it is illegal for a contractor to demand or receive any advance payment before a contract is signed.  Additionally, for contracts where the total price is more than $5,000, the contractor cannot accept a deposit in excess of one-third of the contracted price.

Homeowners are encouraged to determine whether or not a contractor is appropriately registered by calling the Bureau of Consumer Protection’s toll-free number of 1-888-520-6680 or visit the website at www.attorneygeneral.gov.

Unregistered contractors may also be reported via that telephone number or website.

Furthermore, homeowners in the areas hardest hit — Mahoning Township and Danville — should be aware that those municipalities require solicitation permits as well as other permits depending on the work to be performed.  

If a homeowner believes they have been a victim of home improvement fraud, they are encouraged to contact the Montour County District Attorney’s Office at 570-271-3070.

To report violations of the solicitation law, homeowners should contact their local police department.

Homeowners are also encouraged to consult with their attorneys prior to signing any contracts.

 

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