You’ve just bought your piece of the American Dream: your first home. And it wasn’t easy: many years of working and saving to afford a down payment on a mortgage, scrupulous care taken to establish good credit and keep it that way, many months or more spent searching for an affordable home that has the features you want and is in a desirable neighborhood – and then, once you find a home and sign an agreement of sale, even more months spent in a long and cumbersome process of mortgage applications, home inspections, etc. But all that effort has finally paid off, and now you’ve moved into your new home.
Your new-to-you home has some years to it, and you want to install some upgrades. You decide to start by renovating the kitchen. Your friend’s cousins recommend the home improvement contactor who upgraded their kitchen, and tell you that the contractor did a fantastic job. (What they didn’t tell you is that he’s their nephew and doesn’t really have much experience. Oh, well.) Anyhow, it sure seems like a glowing recommendation, and when you interview him he does seem to talk a good game, so without further investigation you hire him to do the job. He quotes you $40,000 for the job, beginning with a down payment of $15,000 for him to begin working.
So you pay him the $15,000 down payment. He cashes the check immediately, and has some supplies delivered to your house (where they sit conspicuously piled up in your driveway), so it seems like he’s right on the job. Now you wait for him to actually start work. And wait. And wait some more. Every time you call or text him, he has an excuse. But the work never starts, and pretty soon he stops answering your calls. You text and email him to either start work immediately or refund your $15,000. The only reply is silence – and now he has your $15,000. Now what do you do?
Many states have laws designed to protect consumers from unscrupulous businesses that take advantage of consumers by selling them household goods – for example, expensive major appliances – or services – for example, contractors who renovate a consumer’s home, and either do a shoddy job, or like Our Hero here, just take the money and run. Fortunately, Pennsylvania is one of the states with a consumer protection law, and it’s called the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law (“UTPCPL”), 73 P.S §§201-1 et seq.
Pennsylvania’s Consumer Proteciton Law (UTPCPL) is a particularly powerful weapon for consumers who have been victimized by an unscrupulous business. That’s because: ordinarily, when you need to sue someone for damages, you usually can claim only the amount they actually owe you (with some modest interest – plus, in reality, “punitive damages” are extremely difficult to obtain), and you must pay your own attorney’s fees. But under the UTPCPL, you can request that the court award you triple damages, PLUS your attorney’s fees. Now this doesn’t mean that a court is guaranteed to always triple your damages and award you all of your attorney’s fees if you win a case brought under the UTPCPL, but it does mean that you might be awarded that much – and the very real threat of that can be a very powerful tool to bringing the shoddy business to heel and getting them to settle with you, before your $15,000 claim clobbers them with with a judgment for $45,000 PLUS thousands more to reimburse you for your attorney’s fees.
If you believe you may have been victimized by a shoddy or unscrupulous home improvement contractor or other business (such as a vendor of expensive household goods), you may have a claim under Pennsylvania’s consumer protection law. The attorneys at Rick Stock Law have decades of experience in representing homeowners and property owners in claims against contractors and other businesses vendors. If you have a dispute with a contractor or product vendor who refuses to cooperate, call our office and schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced litigation attorneys.