Contractor won't finish home improvements

March 2, 2012 23:40 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed: 

I hired a contractor to do some remodeling on my home. I paid for the entire job so that he could purchase the supplies needed. He did most of the work, but will not finish the job.  What can I do to get him to complete it?

Consumer Ed says: 

You don’t say what kind of service agreement you had with the contractor (verbal or written).  If you have a written contract, you have a much clearer legal leg to stand on.  However, even if it was a verbal agreement, you may still be able to sue the contractor.  We strongly recommend that you consult a private attorney.

Other than suing or threatening to sue, you may also be able to force the contractor’s hand by reporting him to the State Licensing Board for Residential and General Contractors at www.sos.ga.gov/plb or by sending a written complaint to: Professional Licensing Boards Division, 237 Coliseum Drive, Macon, GA 31217-3858.  The Board doesn’t oversee all types of complaints about contractors, but it does handle problems with fraud, deceit, gross negligence, repeated or persistent incompetence, or intentional misconduct.  If 90 or more days have passed since the contractor has stopped work without giving you a reason why, then you may have a claim that the contractor has “abandoned” the remodeling. The Board can’t force the contractor to finish the work, but it has the power to impose punitive measures that will make it difficult for him to continue working legally, such as probation, license revocation, or requiring restitution of money advanced for supplies and not used to finish the remodeling.

If you report the contractor to the Board, but he still refuses to complete the work, you can file suit to recover your money, plus damages for the additional cost of completing the remodeling.  Alternatively, you can sue the contractor to simply recover what you paid him for the unfinished work.

Finally, you can submit a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov or to the Georgia Department of Law’s Consumer Protection Unit at www.consumer.ga.gov or by calling 404-651-8600 or 1-800-869-1123.

For future reference, you should never pay the entirety of the agreed price in advance of having the work done.

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Changing a contract after you've signed it

December 21, 2011 00:00 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed: 

My husband signed a contract for replacing our flooring that did not include the dates of service, payment schedule or whether the company would be responsible for disposing of the old flooring. They have not started the work yet. Can I change the contract before they start?

Consumer Ed says: 

This is a legal question, so the first thing you need to do is consult with an attorney about your rights in this situation. You should be aware, however, that unlike some states, Georgia does not require home improvement providers to include in their contracts the price of their services, the start and completion dates, and all work that is to be performed.  If your contract does not contain those specifics, it could give you a legitimate basis for asking your contractor to clarify those terms in writing.  If the contractor refuses to do so, you may have to stick with what the current contract says, (unless an extreme circumstance occurs, e.g. the contractor breaches a crucial term of the contract or delays beginning or completing the work for an unreasonable amount of time).  Assuming your contractor does agree to make the requested changes, ask him to add an additional section to the contract that addresses the changes and be sure you and the contractor both sign that addendum.

In the future, before entering into any kind of service agreement, you should read it carefully to make sure that its important terms are very clear.  Be sure that you fully understand your obligations and the obligations of the other party.  If you don't understand the contract, or if you have any questions, have an attorney review and explain the contract to you before you sign it.

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Can I get a grant or rebate for doing a home energy audit?

August 13, 2011 00:13 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed:

I received a call from a company that said I could get a $3,000 federal grant if I had them do an energy audit of my home.  They then requested my social security number and bank account information so they could check my credit rating. I got suspicious and hung up. Do you think this was a scam? Are there really grants or rebates available for doing an energy audit of your home?

Consumer Ed says:

You were wise to be suspicious of the caller. Unsolicited calls or emails asking for your personal or financial information are usually attempts at identity theft.  There has also been a scam reported in Florida where con artists posing as utility workers have been going around neighborhoods and calling consumers offering free energy audits. To ensure you’re contacting the actual utility company, you should call the number on your power bill.

There are several legitimate programs that offer Georgia residents rebates or financial assistance with energy audits or energy-efficient home improvements. However, they generally require you to initiate contact with them, not vice versa.  Here are some programs that you may be able to take advantage of:

Weatherization Assistance Program - Low-income homeowners may be eligible for the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), which provides weatherization services allowing income-eligible households to reduce their energy bills by making their homes more energy efficient.  For more information and to apply for Weatherization Assistance, visit www.gefa.org.

Free Online Energy Audit - Georgia Power offers a free online energy audit tool to help residential customers determine where the most energy is consumed in their homes and what they can do to lower their monthly bill.  Go to www.georgiapower.com to access this tool.

Free In-Home Energy Audit - Georgia Power also offers customers a free in-home energy audit. An Energy Expert will visit and visually inspect your home and help show you how much you can save on your energy bill. To schedule a free energy audit, call 1-800-524-2421 ext. 200, or visit www.georgiapower.com.

Zero-Interest Financing for Energy Improvements - The residential energy efficiency financing programs, which are funded through Georgia Environmental Finance Authority (GEFA) as a result of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, allow homeowners to apply for funding to complete a number of energy-efficiency improvement projects, and for the purchase of eligible ENERGY STAR appliances. Financing is available through Oglethorpe Power Corporation, Electric Cities of Georgia, Municipal Gas Authority of Georgia and Estes Heating & Air. Contact your electric and/or gas provider for more information on available energy-efficiency loan programs.

Georgia Power Rebates – Georgia Power customers may qualify for rebates of up to $2,200 on energy-efficient home improvements. To be eligible, you must get an energy assessment by a participating contractor (for a fee), and the improvements must be done by a qualified contractor participating in the Georgia Power Home Energy Improvement Program. Rebates are based on actual energy savings achieved. For more information, visit www.georgiapower.com.

Federal Income Tax Credits - As a homeowner, you may also qualify for federal income tax credits if you purchase certain energy-efficient products or renewable energy systems for your home during 2011. For more information on what products qualify, visit the U.S. Department of Energy’s website at www.energysavers.gov.

One final note:  If you hire a contractor to make home improvements, ask people you know for names of contractors they would recommend. You can also check their reputation with the Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org).  Ask the contractor for his license number so you can verify that he is licensed with the Secretary of State’s Office. Make sure the contractor provides you with a detailed written contract before any work is begun, and don’t pay for work that is incomplete.

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