Consumers can now contact the Attorney General Tom Corbett's Office to check on the registration status of any home improvement contractor in Pennsylvania by visiting www.attorneygeneral .gov or by calling 1-888-520-6680.
Mr. Corbett said that the Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act, which requires all contractors who perform $5,000 or more in home improvements in a year to register with the attorney general's office, went into effect July 1.
"We strongly encourage consumers to contact our office before selecting a contractor," he said. "And we encourage consumers to use only contractors who are registered with our office.
The intent of the act is to protect consumers from unscrupulous contractors, to provide new protection for consumers who hire home improvement contractors and to authorize criminal penalties for home improvement fraud.
Mr. Corbett said that complaints involving home improvement or repair projects are one of the top subjects of calls to the attorney general's bureau of consumer protection. In 2008, the Attorney General's Office received more than 2,100 complaints from consumers struggling with problems involving home improvement projects.
The Attorney General's office filed numerous legal actions last year against "no show" contractors and others doing substandard work, seeking more than $2 million in consumer refunds, fines and civil penalties.
"This legislation gives us new tools to identify and prosecute problem contractors," Mr. Corbett said. "It will also help consumers avoid frustrating and potentially expensive problems in the future."
Almost 32,000 Pennsylvania contractors have registered since the beginning of registration on March 23.
Mr. Corbett explained that checking with the Attorney General's office to see if a contractor is registered is important for a few reasons:
• It shows that the contractor is complying with the law.
• It shows the contractor's insurance information.
• It shows whether or not a contractor has a criminal record or if there were any civil judgments (including bankruptcy) against them.
"We have worked very hard to ensure that our new Web site is informative and easy to use for both consumers and contractors," he said. "This Web site offers a wealth of valuable information for the consumers in Pennsylvania."
The Web site includes information for each registered contractor, including:
• Contact and insurance information;
• A description of the company;
• Information on any prior home improvement businesses;
• Names of anyone with an interest in the business;
• Any contractor licenses;
• Bankruptcy, criminal plea and conviction history; and,
• A map showing where the business is located.
Mr. Corbett said that along with checking with the Attorney General's office when choosing a home improvement contractor, consumers should also contact the Better Business Bureau, check the contractors' references and obtain multiple estimates.
He emphasized that the Attorney General's office is not endorsing any particular contractor's quality of work or honesty.
"Being listed on our search page means only that the contractor is complying with the registration requirement of the home improvement consumer protection act and meeting the insurance requirements," he said.
All registered contractors are required to have at least $50,000 of personal injury liability coverage and $50,000 of property damage coverage.