How Attorney General Mark Herring is cracking down on unlicensed contractors

RICHMOND, Va. -- Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring is taking steps to crack down on unlicensed contractors and also reminding consumers what they should do when hiring a contractor.

CBS 6 Problem Solvers have told viewers about a series of separate cases involving unlicensed contractors scamming homeowners in the Richmond area.

Those customers say it’s a sinking feeling to think you’ve been duped by an unlicensed contractor.

Victims have lost thousands or ended up with shoddy or unfinished work.

Pam Kelley has been fighting for her mom Betty Shirey who paid $16,000 to have her Chesterfield driveway paved.

“All they did was spray asphalt sealant over a cement driveway,” said Kelley. “I couldn't believe someone would do that to an 80-year-old woman.”

Shirey wasn’t the only victim, weeks later a homeowner in Henrico reported to police she was approached by the same contractor.

She says he didn't pave her driveway properly, even though he cashed her check for more than $1,000.

Now, Attorney General Mark Herring is pushing back.

Something Kelley is relieved to hear.

“I think they should go after these guys,” said Kelley. “I think they should put the word out and really do what they can do to help innocent and elderly people.”

This week, in an unrelated case, Herring's office says he forced unlicensed contractor Ricky Harmon Pettitt to pay nearly $40,000 for violating the Virginia Consumer Protection Act by providing unlicensed contractor work in Central and Northern Virginia.

Herring says when unlicensed contractors lie about what they can do, they potentially put customers at risk with shoddy workmanship or poor construction.

“Virginians should not have to worry about whether or not the contractor they have hired to work on their home is licensed or trained to do the work,” said Herring.

He encourages any Virginians who believe they have been duped to file a complaint with his team’s Consumer Protection division. You can file that complaint by calling (800) 552-9963 or by email.

“All the information that we can gather would definitely help. If you've been a victim, come forward and let's try to get something done,” Kelley added.

The Attorney General’s Office also encouraged consumers to remember these tips when hiring a contractor:

  • Hire only licensed contractors.
  • Verify the contractor’s license status and check on any complaints with the Board for Contractors.
  • Get referrals from friends, neighbors or co-workers.
  • Check references and look at past work.
  • Get written estimates from at least three contractors.
  • Don’t automatically choose the lowest bid. Ask for an explanation of price differences.
  • Get a signed contract that includes start and completion dates, payment schedule, all materials needed, any promises or warranties.
  • Limit any down payment.
  • Don’t pay cash.
  • Don’t pay in full before all work is complete to your satisfaction.
  • Keep all paperwork.
  • You have three days to cancel most sales made at your home. If you have second thoughts, consider exercising this right.

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