AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine Attorney General William J. Schneider has filed lawsuits against two home repair contractors who allegedly swindled homeowners — some of them elderly — out of their money.
Daniel B. Tucci of Portland, who advertised his business as “Dan the Handyman” in local newspapers, is the subject of a lawsuit filed on Friday in Cumberland County Superior Court.
Joel Poirier, who ran a home construction and repair business in Buxton, is being sued in York County Superior Court. The lawsuit against him was filed last month, after the U.S. Bankruptcy Court’s dismissal of his petition for Chapter 13 protection.
The two are accused of taking money from consumers and failing to perform as promised, Schneider said in a news release issued on Monday. The lawsuits seek to prohibit both of them from acting as general contractors in Maine, providing goods or services, and taking any money in advance from consumers.
The complaint seeks restitution for the affected consumers, as well as penalties and costs.
“We allege that these contractors intentionally misrepresented their ability and willingness to complete the home improvement projects they were paid in advance to do,” Schneider said. “This kind of intimidation of our seniors, who especially need help maintaining their homes, is intolerable.”
According to Schneider, Tucci collected advance payments from customers but failed to perform the promised home repair services.
When the homeowners complained about the lack of progress, Tucci demanded more money, the attorney general said. He also said that any work Tucci and his crew did do was of “extremely low quality.”
The Attorney General’s Office launched its investigation into Tucci’s business dealings after receiving a complaint from Legal Services for the Elderly alleging that he targeted elderly victims.
Many of his customers said that when Tucci was confronted about the lack of progress on or poor quality of the repairs, he responded with threats and bullying.
Meanwhile, Poirier allegedly took large down payments for home improvement projects that he did not begin on time and never finished, Schneider said.
According to a document filed last summer in federal bankruptcy court, Poirier filed Chapter 13 bankruptcy after the state sent him a notice of intent to sue and a draft complaint alleging violations of the Unfair Trade Practices Act and Home Construction Contracts Act and seeking restitution and civil penalties.
The complaint alleged that Poirier entered a contracts with seven customers worth well over half a million dollars. The alleged victims include a customer with limited English proficiency whom Poirier convinced to provide him direct Internet access to construction loan accounts.
The attorney general said there are many reputable home improvement contractors in Maine and homeowners can protect themselves and find the right contractor for the job by taking a few easy steps, including:
• Shop around and compare several estimates.
• Check references from past customers and ask to see samples of the contractor’s work, particularly those similar to the work you want done.
• Get a contract in writing. Maine law requires a written contract for jobs costing more than $3,000.
• Take your time. If the offer is good today, it will be good tomorrow. Be skeptical of high-pressure tactics.
• Establish a payment schedule. Maine law states that down payments cannot exceed one-third of a job’s total cost.
• Before making your final payment, get a second opinion. Have an independent inspector or insurance adjuster inspect the project.
• Demand to see lien waivers from subcontractors and material suppliers.
For information about home construction repair or to file a complaint, contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 800-436-2131 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For information and consumer tips on choosing home improvement contractors, visit www.maine.gov/ag/consumer/housing/home_construction.shtml.
Legal Services for the Elderly can be reached at 800-750-5353 or www.mainelse.org/library/kyr/home_repair.htm.