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Consumers Warned To Be On The Lookout For Home Improvement Scams

Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane today warned property owners to beware of "traveling" or "transient" home improvement contractors
Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane today warned property owners to beware of "traveling" or "transient" home improvement contractors who move from community to community performing shoddy or incomplete work, scamming consumers out of thousands of dollars.

"After this year's long and seemingly never-ending winter, homeowners will be anxious to begin improvement projects," Attorney General Kane said. "Our message to consumers is one of caution. Be careful with whom you do business this spring."

The Office of Attorney General typically begins to see an influx of "transient" contractors offering to paint homes or pave driveways each spring. These traveling contractors claim to be in the area with excess paving or sealing material and offer to repair or protect a homeowner's driveway. In many cases, the materials are inferior and the work performed is shoddy, forcing consumers to pay someone else to correct the job.

Complaints involving home improvement or repairs are among the top subjects of calls to the Office of Attorney General's Bureau of Consumer Protection. The Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act (HICPA), which went into effect in July 2009, establishes a mandatory registration program for contractors who offer or perform home improvements in Pennsylvania.

The statute also establishes minimum insurance requirements for contractors; requires contractors to provide their registration number in their ads and contracts; establishes required contract terms for home improvement contracts; and creates a criminal penalty for home improvement fraud.

Homeowners are encouraged to check with the Office of Attorney General to verify contractor registration. In addition, consumers should also contact the Better Business Bureau, check the contractors' references and obtain multiple estimates.

"Be particularly wary of anyone who knocks on your door and offers to make unsolicited home repairs," Attorney General Kane said.

The Office of Attorney General's Bureau of Consumer Protection offers the following tips for consumers:

* Do not let anybody rush you into a home improvement project.
* Do not do business with contractors who appear at your door unexpectedly and point out problems with your home or offer a "good deal" on repair work.
* Do not allow any contractor, utility company or "inspector" in your home without confirming their identity.
* Homeowners, especially senior citizens, should rely on family, friends or neighbors for assistance in hiring a home improvement contractor.
* Make sure you have a written contract explaining guarantees, warranties, the price of labor/materials and the contractor's registration number and contact information.

All home improvement contracts must contain the Office of Attorney General's toll-free HICPA number, 1-888-520-6680, which consumers can call to verify whether a contractor is registered.
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