Attorney General Cuomo Protects Southern Tier Homeowners From Negligent Home Improvement Contractor

BINGHAMTON, N.Y. (April 23, 2008) - Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced his office has filed suit against a negligent Delaware County home improvement contractor that repeatedly ripped off customers, performed shoddy work and didn’t complete projects outlined in contracts.

Attorney General Cuomo’s lawsuit seeks to make Jeffrey McGowan of Delhi pay full restitution to consumers he defrauded, post a $100,000 performance bond before he continues any home improvement contract business, and pay additional costs and penalties.

“While this dishonest contractor ignored his legal responsibilities, consumers ended up paying well more than the price,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “Contractors who show little integrity and respect toward their work and their customers must be stopped and made to reform their practices.”

McGowan operated his businesses, M & M Quality Contracting and Old Homes Friend, at an office on County Highway 16 in Delhi. According to complaints, McGowan consistently did not complete jobs and the work he did perform was shoddy. He would promise to return to the consumers’ homes to finish the incomplete work, and then frequently failed to do so. He also regularly neglected to honor guaranteed warranties or provide refunds. McGowan’s fraudulent practices left homeowners with no choice but to spend thousands of dollars to correct and complete the work for which they already paid McGowan.

According to court documents, examples of McGowan’s negligence included:

  • Signing a contract for home improvement but then never showing up, claiming his power washer was broken and it would take one week to get it fixed. After two weeks, the customer had not heard from McGowan and was unable to reach him to follow up.
  • Beginning a roof replacement job for a consumer by tearing off the existing roof from a home - and then leaving for a ten-day hunting trip. The first floor of the house was significantly damaged by rain because McGowan did not properly cover the roof before he left for his hunting trip.
  • Failing to issue a $3,200 refund to a consumer for work that was never completed. McGowan wrote a personal check for $500, which the consumer had to make repeated attempts to cash. McGowan also signed a promissory note agreeing to pay the remaining balance, but never came through with the rest of the refund.
  • Not honoring a warranty for a consumer who immediately called McGowan after noticing that a leak McGowan was supposed to have fixed was actually worse than before he started the job. McGowan told the homeowner that he would require an additional $1,000 to stop the leak, even though a 5-year workmanship warranty was included in the signed contract.

The Attorney General’s Office also found that McGowan failed to place advanced payments into trust accounts as required by law. He also failed to inform consumers of their legal right to cancel a signed contract within 3 business days and failed to include the estimated dates when work would begin and be completed in his contracts.

When planning to use a home contractor, consumers should consider the following tips:

  • Never agree to have work done on the spot, especially when potential contractors are marketing door-to-door
  • Determine exactly what you want done, then look for a qualified contractor
  • Shop around; get at least three estimates from reputable contractors that include specific information about the materials and services to be provided
  • Ask for references: check with the Better Business Bureau; banks; suppliers; and neighbors. Always contact any references provided to you
  • Insist on a written contract that includes the price and description of the work needed
  • Do not pay unreasonable advance sums; negotiate a payment schedule tied to the completion of specific stages of the job
  • Never pay the full price up front
  • Remember that you have three days to cancel after signing a home improvement contract, but all cancellations must be in writing

Additional information on how to avoid fraudulent home improvement contractors can be found on the Attorney General’s Website, www.ag.ny.gov/bureaus/consumer_frauds/tips/home_improvements.html.

If you have unresolved disputes with a home improvement contractor and are seeking assistance, you may call the Attorney General’s Consumer Help Line at 800-771-7755.

This case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Michael J. Danaher, Jr. of the Binghamton Regional Office under the supervision of Assistant Attorney General In-Charge Dennis McCabe.


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