New Home Repair Fraud Protections for Pennsylvanians

Posted by Sergei Lemberg, Esq. on November 27th, 2008

On October 17, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell signed a bill creating the Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act, a measure that’s long overdue and that should act as a model for other states around the country. Sponsored by Senator Robert Tomlinson, the new law requires home improvement contractors to register with the Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. Consumers can call a toll-free number to check on the status of a contractor.

For work that costs more than $500, the law also mandates contracts that include an outline of the work, the completion timeline, and the total costs. The new law also has teeth: home improvement scams could be prosecuted as felonies, and sanctions are enhanced if the victim is 60 years old or older.

Tomlinson noted:

“In too many cases, an unethical operator will take a deposit and leave town, or do sub-par repairs and refuse to fix the job. Oftentimes, homeowners are left with empty wallets and no recourse. Scam artists often target senior citizens living on a fixed income, telling them they need work that is not necessary, or taking payment and never doing the work. My legislation will more strictly police home improvement contractors and give consumers more information before they hire a home repair operator.”

Arizona Defeats Homeowners Rights Initiative

Posted by Sergei Lemberg, Esq. on November 19th, 2008

Arizona’s Proposition 201, called the “Homeowners Bill of Rights,” was resoundingly rejected by voters on November 4, in no small part thanks to the $1.5 million that a coalition of builders spent to defeat the measure.

According to a Reuters report:

The proposition would have added eight years to the current mandatory two-year warranty and would have given buyers 100 days to cancel a contract and still receive 95 percent of their deposit back.

The measure was backed by consumers who had purchased defective homes, as well as the AFL-CIO, which said that construction workers are forced to cut corners.

Texas Homeowners are H.O.T. About Lemon Homes

Posted by Sergei Lemberg, Esq. on October 5th, 2008

Homeowners of Texas (H.O.T.) are ready to put some teeth into that state’s laws governing shoddy workmanship on new home construction. They recently stormed the state capitol, calling for the dissolution of the Texas Residential Construction Commission and instead establishing consumer protections similar to those found in the state’s Lemon Law (including awarding attorney fees). According to an organizational press release:

The TRCC, established by the Texas Legislature in 2003 to help resolve disputes between homebuilders and homeowners, instead has become a puppet of the homebuilding industry and a roadblock to relief for wronged homeowners…. Two of the biggest complaints against the TRCC are that it requires one of its own inspectors to visit a home in dispute, a process that can take five months or longer, and the fact that if builders are found guilty of poor or unsafe work, the TRCC has no authority to compel them to correct the problems.

Because a home is likely the largest investment a person makes in his or her lifetime (and particularly in light of declining home values and the current economic crisis), it makes sense to make homebuilders accountable for their products. Consumers need an avenue of redress – and an assurance that, as with auto lemon laws, they don’t have to spend money out of pocket for a lawyer – to get their voices heard.