Staten Island Home Improvement Contractor Agrees to Pay Civil Penalties and Enter Binding Arbitration with Home Owners to Resolve Consumer Fraud Allegations
NEWARK – The New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs today announced that a Staten Island home improvement contractor has agreed to $100,000 in civil penalties, attorneys’ fees and investigative costs, change its practices, and enter binding arbitration with consumers to settle allegations of consumer fraud.
Defendants Harbor View Restoration Limited Liability Corporation (“Harbor View”), owner Frank A. Hoffman, Sr. and his wife, Joan Hoffman, agreed to the terms under a Consent Order that settles the State’s action alleging that the defendants defrauded consumers who hired them to repair homes that had been damaged in fires, floods, and other calamities.
“It is unconscionable that a contractor would prey on homeowners struggling to recover from catastrophic events,” said Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino. “Our action not only penalizes this contractor for his alleged unscrupulous business practices, it provides an opportunity for wronged customers to have their complaints addressed through binding arbitration, and protects future customers by requiring him to change his business practices to comply with the law.”
“Year after year consumer complaints relating to home improvement top our consumer complaints list,” said Steve Lee, Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. “The Division works diligently to investigate these claims and ensure that consumers are protected from predatory contractors.”
Under the Consent Order, which was filed with the Superior Court, Chancery Division, Essex County, Harbor View and the Hoffmans have agreed to change their business practices, including:
- Not engaging in unfair or deceptive business practices.
- Not begin home improvement work prior to obtaining the consumers’ approval.
- Not substituting products or materials for those specified in the home improvement contract without the knowledge or consent of the consumer.
- Not including in their home improvement contracts any language that purports to create a power of attorney in favor of the defendants.
- Not completing or signing a home improvement contract on behalf of a consumer without the knowledge and consent of consumer.
The defendants also agreed to let a Retired Superior Court Judge hear a consumer complaint arising from work the defendants did to repair damage sustained by the consumer’s home during a severe storm in July 2012, through binding arbitration. Also under the Consent Order, the Division will refer any new consumer complaints to Harbor View for resolution. If the defendants dispute a new complaint or request for relief, the matter will be referred to the Division’s Alternative Dispute Resolution Unit for binding arbitration.
Defendants have also agreed to a $140,000 settlement that includes $100,000 in civil penalties, attorney fees, and investigative costs, as well as $40,000 in civil penalties suspended for two years and vacated if the defendants comply with all of the terms of the Consent Order.
Consumers who believe they were deceived or misled in doing business with Harbor View can file an online complaint with the State Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504- 6200.
Investigator Joseph Iasso of the Division of Consumer Affairs' Office of Consumer Protection conducted this investigation.
Deputy Attorney General Erin M. Greene of the Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section within the Division of Law represented the State in this action.
John Petriello, Esq. of Ehrlich, Petriello, Gudin & Plaza, P.C., represented the defendants in this action.
Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse can file an online complaint with the State Division of Consumer
Affairs by visiting its website or by calling 1-800-242-5846
(toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504- 6200.