It’s unfortunately a familiar story for many homeowners: they hire a contractor to make home improvements and pay a deposit, but then the contractor never shows.
Such was the case for customers in Atlantic County, NJ, who hired ShorePro Contractors. At the beginning of June, a judge ordered the company to pay back $940,000 to customers who paid for work that was never completed.
Owner Christopher Molosso, Sr., allegedly demanded $2,000 from one customer for a home renovation permit, even though the fee for the permit had been waived because the home had suffered damage during Hurricane Sandy.
In all, ShorePro had violated New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act, the Home Improvement Contractor’s Registration Act, and other regulations a total of 84 times. Many victims, like the homeowner who was told he had to pay $2,000 for a permit, had their homes damaged by the Hurricane in 2012.
Summertime is typically a big home improvement season for both the interior and exterior of a house. But homeowners often neglect to research the people who say they’ll fix up the house.
For instance, although carpet covers about 70% of all floors in the United States, some homeowners may want engineered hardwood or laminate flooring in parts of their home instead. But if they pay a contractor who doesn’t show up to complete the work, they could be left with half a floor put in and the other half ripped up for months at a time.
And most contractors work on what is essentially a freelance basis. This means that those who are found to be fraudulent end up dispersing customers elsewhere, but other contractors could see their businesses hurt if they get lumped in with those who have committed fraud.
Fortunately, there are ways that homeowners can make sure they receive quality service from a contractor or construction company.
The first is to check with the Better Business Bureau to find out about that company’s history. This will list whether or not there were any complaints against a company for their products or services.
Consumers should also make sure to get multiple estimates for any project. The lowest bid isn’t always the best contractor, though, so they should always look into the BBB reviews.
Finally, homeowners should be aware of whom they’re hiring for a project. Where general contractors can manage all steps of a project, including securing permits, there are also specialty contractors, who do one type of project only, and architects, who should be hired for any structural changes to a house.
Anyone hired for a home improvement project should have proper licensing and insurance and be willing to show that to homeowners when they ask.
As for consumers who do get ripped off by contractors, they can also report the company to their state’s attorney general. That’s how ShorePro’s scam got caught in the first place.
Molosso and ShorePro will have all assets liquidated to pay back $76,810.08 in restitution to customers. The remaining $840,000 and $20,993.85 will go toward paying civil penalties and legal fees to the state, respectively.