WATERTOWN – Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced Nov. 29 that his office has reached a settlement with St. Lawrence Home Building Corporation, resolving an investigation of the home improvement contracting company over its repeated failure to use contracts as required by state law.
An investigation conducted by the Attorney General’s Office uncovered that, despite being put on direct notice of their legal obligations to use contracts in 2010 and 2013, the company continued to disregard the law. The agreement requires the company, which is owned and operated by William DiTrinco, to use compliant contracts in future home improvement projects and to pay a $10,000 penalty to the state of New York.
"For decades, St. Lawrence Home Building failed to provide homeowners with a written and signed contract before initiating projects. These agreements protect consumers and contractors alike and are required by state law," said Schneiderman. "I encourage New Yorkers to consult my tips before hiring a home improvement contractor – and contact my office right away if they suspect shady business practices."
In the fall of 2016, the Attorney General’s Office initiated an investigation into St. Lawrence Home Building after homeowners submitted a consumer complaint stating that the company improperly filed a construction lien on their property for more than $9,800 and refused to provide a home improvement contract. While mediating the complaint, the company stated that it had never used contracts in its decades of business operation.
In 2010 and 2013, St. Lawrence Home Building was included in the Attorney General’s statewide home improvement contractor initiative aimed at ensuring contractors were complying with the law. Through that initiative, St. Lawrence Home Building was put on direct notice of its obligations to follow the law twice and was subsequently notified of its failure to follow the law.
During the course of the investigation, and after having again been informed that the business was illegally engaging in major home improvement jobs without a contract, the business began improperly asking their clients to sign a waiver of the statutory contract requirements.
DiTrinco has previously stated that he intends to close the business and dissolve the corporation. However, if he or his business operates as home improvement contractors in the future, the agreement requires that they use contracts that are compliant with New York General Business Law and prohibits them from requesting that customers waive their legal protections. Additionally, St. Lawrence Home Building has agreed to waive the prior claim levied against a homeowner for $9,800.
State law protects homeowners
In New York, home improvement contractors are required to use contracts for any job that costs the homeowner more than $500. The contract must be signed by both parties and contain: proposed start and completion dates; a description of the work to be completed; materials to be provided; total cost of the contract; and include a notice to the consumer of their unconditional three-day right to cancel the contract without penalty, among other items.
The attorney general encourages homeowners to consider the following tips when planning to use a home improvement contractor:
Never agree to have work done on the spot, especially when potential contractors are marketing door-to-door.
Determine exactly what you want done, then look for a qualified contractor.
Shop around; get at least three estimates from reputable contractors that include specific information about the materials and services to be provided.
Ask for references; check with the Better Business Bureau, banks, suppliers and neighbors.
Always contact any references provided to you.
Insist on a written contract that includes the price and description of the work needed.
Do not pay unreasonable advance sums; negotiate a payment schedule tied to the completion of specific stages of the job.
Never pay the full price up front.
Remember that you have three days to cancel after signing a home improvement contract, but all cancellations must be in writing.
Additional information on how to avoid fraudulent home improvement contractors can be found on the attorney general’s website.