States sues home improvement contractors

Pettit site

Attorney General Mark R. Herring has taken enforcement actions against three allegedly unlicensed contractors operating in Virginia, including Pettit’s Home Improvement, which operates in Northern Virginia. ach of the unlicensed contractors allegedly committed numerous violations of the Virginia Consumer Protection Act, which generally prohibits the use of any deception, fraud, false pretense, false promise, or misrepresentation in connection with a consumer transaction.

“No one should have to worry about whether the contractor they have hired to work on their home is licensed or trained to do the work they say they can,” said Herring. “These unlicensed contractors are not only lying to consumers they are potentially putting them in danger with shoddy workmanship. My Consumer Protection section will continue to investigate claims of fraud and abuse against consumers and take action where we can to stop it.”

Named in the actions are Ricky Harmon Pettit and his companies, Pettit’s Home Improvement, Ricky H. Pettit Home Improvement, and R. H. Pettit Builders. The others are Timothy Oneal White, operating as White Renovation and Construction and White Renovations in the City of Roanoke; and Gerald Lee Whitfield, operating as Whitfield’s Home Improvements in the City of Chesapeake.

In the Pettit case, the Attorney General has filed a lawsuit against Ricky Harmon Pettit for providing unlicensed contractor work in consumers’ homes in Central and Northern Virginia. The lawsuit alleges that in several instances Pettit offered contractor services to consumers, obtained money before performing those services, and failed to complete those services. Pettit also falsely told consumers that he was insured and licensed with the Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation Board for Contractors. The Complaint alleges Pettit violated the Consumer Protection Act by:

  • Representing that he was a plumber, when he has never held a tradesmen license with a plumbing specialty as required by statute;
  • Taking payments of $2,524.99 from one consumer to install floor and wall tiles in a bathroom, and later install a toilet, pedestal sink, and water heater, and never finishing the work;
  • Taking payments of $21,000.00 from another consumer to renovate the consumer’s kitchen, and never finishing the work;
  • Representing himself as licensed and insured on business documents including an invoice, a business card, a written contract, and his website, when Pettit was not licensed and insured;
  • Making other false statements and unfulfilled promises throughout his transactions with consumers; and
  • Undertaking work without a valid Virginia contractor’s license when a license is required.

What to do

Consumers are encouraged 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 at http://www.dpor.virginia.gov/ LicenseLookup/ or call (804) 367-8511.
  • 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.

If you think you have been a victim of an unlicensed contractor please reach out to the Office through Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-800-552-9963, or file a complaint on its website.

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About the Author

Truman Lewis
A former reporter and bureau chief, Truman Lewis has covered presidential campaigns, state politics and stories ranging from organized crime to environmental and consumer protection.