Five Home Improvement Contracting Companies Shut Down, Principal Agrees to Pay $315,000 to Settle Lawsuit Alleging Workers Damaged or Destroyed Chimneys, Roofs and Gutters Not in Need of Repair
NEWARK - Five home improvement contracting companies controlled and operated by two relatives have been permanently shut down, with 86 consumers eligible to receive restitution for damage the State alleged was caused by workers inspecting chimneys, roofs and gutters and, in some cases, failing to make repairs or making substandard repairs.
The Office of the Attorney General and the Divisions of Consumer Affairs and Law in 2012 filed suit against Sulejman Lita, 36, of North Haledon, and AAA Reliable, Inc., his home improvement contracting company as well as a related company, Old Reliable Construction Limited Liability Company. After the filing, the State obtained temporary restraints barring the businesses from advertising, selling and/or performing home improvements. The suit later was amended to include Liman Lita, 39, of North Haledon, believed to be Sulejman's cousin, and three companies that the State alleged were controlled by them: A Safeway Construction, Inc.; A Safeway Construction, LLC; and A Safeway Improvements, Inc. A Safeway Construction, Inc., was created after the filing of the State's lawsuit.
"We alleged these defendants used coupons offering free inspections and low-priced services to gain access to homes, where workers damaged chimneys, roofs or gutters to coerce consumers into paying for expensive repairs," Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman said. "We also alleged that senior citizens, many of whom were on fixed incomes, specifically were targeted, making the conduct of these defendants even more reprehensible. This settlement returns money to those were victimized by the Litas and their companies."
The settlement provides for a payment of $315,000, which is to be paid by Sulejman Lita. The Division of Consumer Affairs received a $25,000 payment upon filing of the Final Consent Judgment in State Superior Court in Hackensack on July 15, 2013. A second payment of $125,000, is due by August 31, 2013.
"We intend to distribute the combined $150,000 to consumers who filed complaints with the Division and are owed restitution," said Eric T. Kanefsky, Director of the State Division of Consumer Affairs. "Putting bad actors out of business and getting money back into the hands of those who were wronged are always our priorities. Through this settlement we have achieved both ends."
Under terms of the settlement:
- Effective July 31, 2013, A Safeway Construction, Inc., agreed to cease advertising, offering for sale, selling and/or performing home improvements and to relinquish its home improvement contractor registration with the Division of Consumer Affairs;
- The home improvement contractor registration of AAA Reliable, Inc., and A Safeway Improvements, Inc., are permanently revoked;
- The websites of AAA Reliable, Inc., and A Safeway Construction, Inc., are to be shut down;
- The corporate or limited liability charters of AAA Reliable, Inc., Old Reliable Construction, A Safeway Construction, LLC and A Safeway Improvements are permanently vacated or annulled and by December 31, 2013, A Safeway Construction, Inc., will be dissolved;
- Sulejman Lita is barred for three years from advertising, selling and performing home improvements in New Jersey; and
- Sulejman Lita is also barred for three years from managing, operating and/or owning any businesses that require licensing or registration by the Division of Consumer Affairs, including home improvement contractor, master plumber, electrician or locksmith.
The Litas also are required to adhere to the requirements of the State's Consumer Fraud Act, Home Improvement Contractors' Registration Act and regulations, if either performs home improvements in the future. The Final Consent Judgment also expressly prohibits the conduct alleged in the State's lawsuit, which includes: bait-and-switch and/or high-pressure sales tactics, including those directed to senior citizens; providing, through direct mailings, coupons for home improvements at an advertised price, then failing to perform the work at that price; substituting products or materials without the consumer's knowledge or consent; and arriving at a consumer's home to perform a simple or minor home improvement, then causing damage to the home, thus requiring a more extensive and expensive home improvement.
Sulejman Lita must pay the $165,000 balance of the settlement payment by August 15, 2015.
Defendants made no admission of liability in entering into the Final Consent Judgment. Deputy Attorneys General Lorraine K. Rak, Chief of the Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section, and Nicholas Kant, also of the Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section within the Division of Law, represented the State in this action. The Division of Consumer Affairs, Office of Consumer Protection conducted the investigation, with assistance from the Bergen County Consumer Affairs Office.
Consumers who believe they have been cheated or scammed by a business, or suspect any other form of consumer abuse, can file a complaint with the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504-6200.
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