Press-Republican

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June 3, 2012

Attorney General announces settlements with 47 North Country contractors

PLATTSBURGH — Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced a settlement with 47 local home improvement contractors after they were allegedly found to be in violation of the state’s Home Improvements Contracts Law.

In his first visit to Plattsburgh since taking office, Schneiderman held a press conference Saturday morning vowing to keep contractors honest while protecting New Yorker’s hard-earned dollars.

“Unfortunately, not enough consumers are familiar with this law and not enough contractors abide by it,” he said.

The 47 contractors, according to Schneiderman, have signed an agreement to end any unlawful conduct and paid fines ranging from $300 to $1,500.

“All have pledged to abide by the law going forward,” he said. “We will be continuing to monitor them.”

Roy L’Esperance, who owns Chimney Sweep Hearthside Shop in Plattsburgh and in Shelburne, Vt, reluctantly paid $1,500 in fines, and considered closing his New York store after receiving what he said were threatening letters from the Plattsburgh District Attorney’s office.

He hired a lawyer to fight the allegations, but ultimately ended up having to pay restitution.

L’Esperance said his stores, both retail locations, should not necessarily be subjected to the same laws as other contractors.

While his stores do deliver and install wood stoves, L’Esperance said he has always required customers to sign a contract and was surprised to hear he was in violation of the law.

The ruling, passed in 1988, requires every home improvement contractor, before beginning work, provide the consumer with a written contract signed by both parties, outlining specific information and disclosures.

“It has to include information about the materials, which is frequently a subject of dispute and inform customers of the three-day right to cancel,” Schneiderman said.

The law also states that any deposits contractors take from homeowners are to be kept in a separate account and the money cannot be used to pay off materials from other jobs.

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