Saturday, December 23, 2006

Consumer Protection against Contractor Fraud in Virginia

I decided to write about this topic after I found out about one of my customer's terrible experience with a shady construction contractor in the Ashburn, Virginia. This posting is a brief introduction to how my company does business and also very valuable information about consumer protection laws in Virginia that anyone thinking about hiring a contractor should know.

My customer contacted my company A1A Contractors for their kitchen back splash project. Their kitchen was beautifully remodeled with French Country style cabinets, granite top and olive green wall paint. They asked for a grid and diagonal backsplash with accent pieces to match.

This very busy husband and wife team found it hard to go and select tile samples for this project. I decided to help them out by selecting samples from Conestoga Tile and Dal Tile company stores around Ashburn, VA and delivering them to their home. Once they selected the tiles, I ordered them and passed on the contractor discount (20%) to my customer. The construction phase lasted about 5 hours (we worked while they were at work) and after the final clean up we left the house. At about 6:30PM that night, my customer (the wife) called me and invited me back to give me the final payment for the project. She was so excited and said that she could not believe how beautiful the backsplash looked in her kitchen. (Pictures)

I went over to their house to collect the final payment. As the customer was writing the check he told me about how happy they were about doing business with my company. They proceeded to tell me that a contractor they found through took $2,500 of their money and disappeared without finishing their kitchen remodeling project. They then turned to me and said "Would you be offended if we added an additional $65 to the final payment because we are so happy with you?" I was very happy, but very saddened about their past negative experience.

Unbeknown to many consumers, many states like Virginia have passed Consumer Protection Acts against shady contractors. Furthermore, there are Monetary Funds set up to help consumers recover all or part of their expenses including legal fees. In the State of Virginia, the act is called Virginia Contractor Transaction Recovery Act. This act provides and avenue by consumers to file complaints against shady contractors licensed by the State of Virginia Board of Contractors.

If the Board finds that the consumer has be wronged, he and she (family members can claim individually against a contractor) can recover all or portion of their investment from the Transaction Recovery Fund (
The maximum claim of one claimant against the Fund based upon an unpaid judgment arising out of the improper or dishonest conduct of one regulant in connection with a single transaction involving contracting, is limited to $20,000, regardless of the amount of the unpaid judgment of the claimant.)

The reason why I want to write about my customer's experience good and bad experience with Construction Contractors is as follows:
  1. Just like in life, there are good and bad people involved in the construction business.
  2. As a consumer, you should know your rights and select reputable contractors.
  3. Contractors need to educate consumers about their rights in order to weed out shady characters out of this business.
Consumer protection is only good if it is used.

Murat Aksu

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