2010-11-19 / Top Stories

DCA ‘Stings’ Illegal Contractors

Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) Commissioner Jonathan Mintz recently announced the results of an eight-week sting house operation targeting illegal home improvement contractors. DCA issued violations and seized vehicles from 12 unlicensed contractors, who have agreed to pay more than $65,000 in fines and restitution. DCA identified six of these contractors based on fines or restitution they owed, previously revoked licenses and consumer complaints. The Department targeted the other six after finding them illegally advertising their services in local newspapers or online despite being unlicensed. While licensed contractors’ work is ultimately backed up by DCA’s Home Improvement Contractor Trust Fund, into which licensees pay a fee, unlicensed home improvement contractors put homeowners at risk for unsafe workmanship, unfinished projects and excessive expenses.

As part of its sting house operation, DCA investigators scheduled 14 appointments for estimates, with 13 of the illegal contractors showing up to bid on a job. When each of the unlicensed contractors agreed to conduct a range of services despite being unlicensed, DCA immediately seized their vehicles and issued violations. A total of 12 vehicles were seized; the 13th contractor fled when the undercover inspector identified himself, though the Department still filed violations for unlicensed activity.

In the last year, DCA conducted more than 1,600 inspections throughout the City, issuing more than 600 violations, seizing over 200 vehicles and revoking or suspending more than 100 licenses. Last year, the Department secured more than $6.2 million in restitution for consumers.

The majority of the nearly 500 complaints received by DCA about home improvement contractors involved contractors failing to follow through on the terms of their contracts with homeowners. Home improvement contractors are consistently one of DCA’s highest complaint categories. There are currently more than 13,000 home improvement contractors licensed with DCA.

Consumers can instantly check to see if a contractor is licensed online at nyc.gov/consumers or by calling 311. DCA also provides a model contract that covers the breadth of a home improvement project, from materials and equipment to prices, payments and work schedules. Home improvement contractors can apply online for a DCA license.

DCA enforces the Consumer Protection Law and other related busi DCA licenses more than 71,000 businesses in 55 different industries. Through targeted outreach, partnerships with community and trade organizations, and informational materials, DCA educates consumers and businesses alike about their rights and responsibilities. DCA’s Office of Financial Empowerment (OFE) is the first local government initiative in the nation with a mission to educate, empower, and protect New Yorkers with low incomes so they can build assets and make the most of their financial resources.

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