Cold Hearted Contractor Lands in Hot Water with State Officials

When it comes to home improvement, homeowners and contractors must have mutual trust and confidence. Homeowners deserve quality finished work, and contractors deserve prompt and fair payment. A written contract is one of the ways in which the parties can ensure a fair bargain and hold each other accountable. This article suggests a number of ways that homeowners and contractors can avoid getting dragged into costly and time-consuming lawsuits.

Pool Installation Gone Wrong

When one client was defrauded by a pool installation contractor, we recovered the money that she paid for a pool that was never installed.

The client hired a pool installation contractor to install a swimming pool in her back yard for her grandchildren. The estimate was $58,000 and installation was scheduled for October 3, 2016. The client paid a deposit of $2,500, in addition to the first installment of $18,500. However, the contractor failed to start the project as promised on October 3, 2016; and by November it was too late in the season to begin excavation. The contractor promised to begin the project in April of 2017, however, he again failed to start as promised.

What Should You Do When the Contractor Stops Responding?

Consult an experienced attorney. When the client attempted to contact the contractor, he either (a) dodged her calls, or (b) attempted to bully her (68-year-old female customer). The contractor continued dodging the client for several months using elaborate excuses about delays with the engineer, survey and plans. The client eventually told the contractor to either finish the pool by August 3, 2017 or return the $21,000 she paid. When the contractor failed to complete the project or return the client’s $21,000, she hired us to represent her.

What Should Your Attorney Do When the Contractor Stops Responding?

Sending a demand letter pursuant to M.G.L. c. 93A is an appropriate first step when the client is a consumer. Our demand letter set forth claims for breach of contract and violations of c. 93A, however, the contractor failed to respond. This prompted an extensive investigation during which we uncovered the contractor’s decades long history of larceny and fraud beginning in Connecticut. Based on our investigation, it appears that after the contractor served prison sentences in Connecticut, he started moving north through Rhode Island and into Massachusetts. The Judge found that the contractor owed the entire $21,000.00 plus interest, however, the contractor’s lack of assets was a problem because we couldn’t collect the money owed. At this point, we determined that a different strategy was required, so we met with local law enforcement officials and provided them with documentation that resulted in criminal charges. We made arrangements to have the contractor served with the civil lawsuit when he appeared for his criminal case. The Judge required the contractor to return all of our client’s money and ordered him to pay an additional $14,533.72, on top of the $21,000 to cover her attorney’s fees and costs. Many other victims, unfortunately, were not able to recover their money. Thankfully, the contractor’s Home Improvement Contractor registration was recently suspended in Massachusetts.

Steps for Homeowners and Contractors to Take

  1. Research, but be wary of website reviews.
  2. Get multiple estimates.
  3. Verify a contractor’s home improvement registration status with the Home Improvement Contractor Program of the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation, which provides arbitration claims with the Residential Contractor’s Guaranty Fund.
  4. Verify insurance.
  5. Have a written contract that:
    1. Complies with M.G.L. c. 142A (Home Improvement Contractor Statute)
    2. Has a payment schedule with installments and the final installment due upon completion of the project
    3. Specifies the scope and nature of the work



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