Consumer Protection Charges Unlicensed Home Improvement Contractor
Consumer Protection Charges Unlicensed
Home Improvement Contractor
Following an investigation by Montgomery County’s Office of Consumer Protection (OCP), an arrest warrant has been obtained for an unlicensed home improvement contractor who was paid $82,500 but failed to provide the agreed upon services. The warrant, issued on January 17, charges Cesar Suazo Rivera of Falls Church, Virginia with acting as a home improvement contractor without the required license, abandoning the job, and felony theft.
The charges arose following a complaint filed by a consumer who had contracted with Rivera to build an addition to their home. After Rivera received a check for $82,500 to start the job, the only work performed was the partial removal of a fence and the delivery of some building materials. During the delivery of the materials, the consumer’s home was damaged. Several weeks later, Rivera returned and demanded another $30,000 before starting the project. The consumer refused and subsequently filed a complaint with OCP.
OCP’s investigation revealed that Rivera is currently wanted in Fairfax County for two counts of practicing a profession without a license and one count of attempted abduction and malicious wounding. Rivera has refused to cooperate by turning himself into police. Anyone with information on Rivera’s whereabouts should contact their local police department.
Maryland law requires that home improvement contractors be licensed by the Maryland Home Improvement Commission (MHIC). This requirement protects the consumer by screening contractors for criminal records, requiring them to have trade experience, and testing contractors to ensure they know how to comply with Maryland’s home improvement laws. Most importantly, consumers can file a claim of up to $15,000 from the Home Improvement Guaranty Fund if they suffer a loss when doing business with a licensed contractor.
“An increasing number of unlicensed home improvement contractors also have criminal histories,” said OCP Director Eric Friedman. “It can be potentially dangerous to hire unlicensed contractors. We continue to work closely with the State’s Attorney in prosecuting these cases.”
OCP advises consumers never to hire an unlicensed contractor. Consumers should follow these steps before contracting for any home improvement work:
1. Contact the Maryland Home Improvement Commission at 410-230-6309 or online at www.dllr.state.md.us to see if a firm is licensed. (Don’t be fooled if the contractor only has a “business” license from the Circuit Court, as opposed to a Home Improvement Commission License issued by the State Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.)
2. Check to see if any complaints have been filed against the contractor with the Office of Consumer Protection by calling 240-777-3636 or go online to www.montgomerycountymd.gov/consumer. Also check with the Better Business Bureau at 202-393-8000 or online at www.dc.bbb.org. Consult CHECKBOOK Magazine at local public libraries or online at www.checkbook.org for recommendations regarding good contractors.
3. Check the Maryland Judiciary Case Search online at http://casesearch.courts.state.md.us...uiry-index.jsp to see if an individual is involved in any legal actions.
4. Beware of any contractors who solicit business by saying that they “have material left over from another job in the area and can give you a real good price.” This is a classic sign that the contractor may be unlicensed and just passing through the area.
5. Read OCP’s brochure, “Guide to Home Improvements,” before selecting a contractor. By law, a contractor must provide a written contract stating the contractor’s license number and cannot charge a down payment that exceeds 33 percent of the total job.
OCP, the County’s consumer protection agency, investigates thousands of complaints each year involving automotive sales and repairs, new home purchases, home improvements, credit issues, retail sales, internet services, and most other consumer transactions. OCP provides pre-purchase information to consumers, as well as speakers to the community on consumer issues.
For more information and to check any merchant’s complaint record, call 240-777-3636 or visit OCP’s website:
Last edited by Howard Hartman; 02-21-2008 at 08:46 PM.
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