Attorney General Cuomo Secures Restitution, Penalties Against Negligent Delaware Co. Home Improvement Contractor
BINGHAMTON, N.Y. (June 6, 2008) – Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced his office has obtained a court order requiring a Delaware County home improvement contractor to refund more than $20,000 and pay $9,500 in penalties and costs for repeatedly ripping off consumers.
As a result of Attorney General Cuomo’s lawsuit, Jeffrey McGowan of Delhi must pay restitution of $20,375.11 to consumers, $7,500 in penalties and $2,000 in costs to the state for performing shoddy work, not honoring warranties and not completing projects he was paid for. McGowan must also post a $100,000 performance bond before he continues any home improvement contract business.
“Consumers ended up paying far more than they expected for home improvement work because of this contractor’s shoddy and incomplete work,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “He must now pay those he defrauded and will no longer be able to victimize homeowners in Delaware County and the Catskills.”
McGowan operated his businesses, M & M Quality Contracting and Old Homes Friend, from an office on County Highway 16 in Delhi. According to complaints, McGowan consistently did not complete jobs he was paid for and the work he did perform was below standard. He also regularly neglected to honor warranties or provide refunds. McGowan’s fraudulent practices left homeowners with no choice but to spend thousands of dollars extra to correct and complete the work for which they had already paid McGowan.
According to court documents, examples of McGowan’s negligence included:
- Beginning a roof replacement job for a consumer by tearing off the existing roofing 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 trip.
- 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 advance payments into escrow 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.
As part of the order issued by Delaware County Supreme Court Justice Molly Reynolds Fitzgerald, additional consumers who believe they were defrauded by McGowan have until August 28, 2008 to file a complaint with the Attorney General’s Binghamton Regional Office. The office can be contacted by calling (607) 721-8771.
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/consumer/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.