Attorney General Chiesa and Division of Consumer Affairs File Suit Against Unregistered Home Improvement Contractors
NEWARK - Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa and the State Division of Consumer Affairs have filed suit against two individuals and the home improvement companies they own or owned, alleging they defrauded consumers through multiple violations of the state Consumer Fraud Act, Contractors' Registration Act, Contractor Registration Regulations, Home Improvement Regulations, and Advertising Regulations.
Defendants John Kot, 41, of Garwood and Gabriel R. DaSilva Jr., 43, of Paterson, are alleged to have owned or co-owned several similar-named home improvement companies based in northern New Jersey, according to the state's 11-count Complaint.
Based on its investigation and nearly 70 consumer complaints received to date, the state is alleging in a Complaint filed in State Superior Court in Bergen County that the defendants performed home improvement work in a substandard manner which resulted in dangerous and/or unsafe conditions for consumers, in some cases constituting a potential fire and safety hazard.
The defendants also are alleged to have advertised, offered for sale, sold and/or performed home improvements without being registered as home improvement contractors with the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs; refused to make the necessary repairs to remedy its substandard work, despite promises, guarantees, warranties and/or representations that they would return to fix the problems; refused to return consumer deposits for work that was never performed; failed to honor guarantees or warranties provided in a consumer's home improvement contract; commenced work without the necessary state and/or local permits to perform the contracted-for home improvements; advertised home improvement work through names and website statements that wrongfully implied an affiliation with a government agency, quasi-police agency and/or police-affiliated business; misrepresented their business locations; and for Kot, used an assumed name as an alias in the course of conducting business.
The state has also alleged that defendants perpetuated their deceptive business practices through the interchangeable use of multiple business entities, names, addresses and phone numbers. These companies include: A-1 American Construction, Inc.; A 1 American Chimney Limited Liability Company; Brick City Chimney Service, L.L.C.; Brick City Chimney Service and Cleaning, Inc.; and Roofing Police, Inc. a/k/a Roofing Squad. The state's Complaint also alleges that the defendants conducted business under several similar unregistered business names, including: Roofing Squad; Chimney Squad; Brick City; Brick City Chimney & Roofing Services; A-1 American Masonry; A-1 American Masonry Services; A-1 American Chimney Service; A-1 American Contracting; A-1 American Roofing; A-1 American Gutters; A-1 American Siding; A-1 Affordable Construction; A Above American; A Above Brick City; and Diamond Roofing. The companies used common addresses in Fair Lawn, Hackensack, Maywood and Garwood.
"We allege that these defendants defrauded consumers of their hard-earned money. We're working to obtain restitution for these consumers and to prohibit Kot, DaSilva and their companies from engaging in any future violations of the Consumer Fraud Act and related laws, so that no one else is harmed," Attorney General Chiesa said.
The state also is seeking assessment of civil penalties and reimbursement of its investigative costs and attorneys' fees.
Home-improvement related complaints were the largest single category of consumer complaints filed with the Division last year.
Since 2006, the Contractors' Registration Act and Contractor Registration Regulations require home improvement contractors to register with the Division of Consumer Affairs and obtain a registration number. To register, a home improvement contractor must provide proof of liability insurance, disclose a legitimate business address, and provide other information about the business. Contractors must display the registration number on all contracts, advertisements, and commercial vehicles as a reference for consumers. Specific consumer-protection language is required to be in contracts. "Consumers should verify that a home improvement contractor is registered before signing a contract or paying a deposit and should only hire contractors registered with the Division of Consumer Affairs," said Eric T. Kanefsky, Acting Director of the State Division of Consumer Affairs. "Consumers also should report suspected unregistered contractors or problems with deficient contractor work to us, and we will investigate."
Before hiring a home improvement contractor, New Jersey consumers are urged to:
- Obtain the contractor's State registration number, which always begins "13VH."
- Contact the State Division of Consumer Affairs to learn whether the contractor's registration is still valid. Call the Division's License Verification Line at 973-273-8090, or check the Division's database of all 43,000 registered home improvement contractors at http://www.NJConsumerAffairs.gov/LVinfo.htm .
- Ask the State Division of Consumer Affairs whether there are any consumer complaints filed against the contractor.
- Demand a copy of the contractor's liability insurance policy.
- Contact the insurer to learn whether the policy is still valid.
Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Kant, in the Division of Law's Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section, is representing the state 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 a 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.
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