Dutchess, NY asked in Consumer Law for New York

Q: A building contractor has taken money to build but refused to complete the work. Can I file consumer fraud charges?

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1 Lawyer Answer
Matthew Parham
Matthew Parham
  • Consumer Law Lawyer
  • Buffalo, NY
  • Licensed in New York

A: If this was for work on your home, then possibly. If the contractor promised to do work, took money, and then disappeared, there may be a strong case for consumer deception under General Business Law section 349, which prohibits deceptive acts or practices in any business; or for common law fraud. An attorney may be willing to take a case under section 349, because it allows for the recovery of attorney's fees from the contractor.

Also, if you were given anything in writing, New York has a consumer protection law specifically addressing written home improvement contracts. It is General Business Law 772 and it says:

§ 772. Penalty for fraud. 1. Any owner who is induced to contract for a home improvement, in reliance on false or fraudulent written representations or false written statements, may sue and recover from such contractor a penalty of five hundred dollars plus reasonable attorney's fees, in addition to any damages sustained by the owner by reason of such statements or representations. In addition, if the court finds that the suit by the owner was without arguable legal merit, it may award reasonable attorney's fees to the contractor.

Either General Business Law 349 or 772 may be enforced by the New York attorney general and by a private citizen in a lawsuit. If by charges you have in mind a criminal complaint, in my experience police departments are unlikely to process this as a criminal matter but you could certainly try.

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