EASTON, Pa. — Since the owner of Hydro Dynamic Pools was arrested Tuesday morning, the Northampton County District Attorney has received at least a dozen calls from people who also claim to be victims. Roger Kornfeind of Bethlehem faces 75 charges for allegedly scamming clients out of thousands of dollars.
Experts are now warning that if you want any work done to your home, you have to do the work yourself.
“If you were to buy something on Amazon, you would look at what the reviews were, and that’s no different,” said Patrick Best, attorney at ARM Lawyers. “You want to make sure people have had a good experience.”
“You can also do a simple search online for the contractor’s name and the word ‘scam’, the word ‘fraud’, just trying to figure out what people are saying online,” said Kelsey Coleman, director of communications and public affairs at the Better Business Bureau, which serves the Washington DC metro area and eastern Pennsylvania.
“They have to register with the state, and there’s a website, HIC researchwhere you can go in and you can look up the name of the contractor and see if it’s actually registered,” said Nicholas Sandercock, associate attorney at Gross McGinley, LLP.
Ask for references and proof of insurance.
“You also want to get three quotes,” Coleman said. “Don’t go with the first person you just spoke to. The lowest offer probably isn’t your best offer, in some cases.”
A detailed written contract is essential.
“Expected start date, expected end date, detailed scope of work that is going to be done, including materials,” Sandercock said.
Lawyers say there should also be a final cost and drawdowns in case the work is not completed by a certain date, which has been more problematic recently.
“The easiest way to make sure you’re covered by a pandemic is simply to state ‘force majeure’, which includes not just an act of God, but specific cases, whether it’s the pandemic itself, supply chain issues, issues with the control of either party,” Sandercock said.
Experts say the good news is that Pennsylvania’s home improvement consumer protection law is designed to protect you.
“It actually requires that for jobs over $5,000, the deposit be limited to one-third of the purchase price,” Best said.
“Don’t pay everything up front,” Coleman said. “We don’t want anyone paying cash.”
So don’t pay too early for a bargain.
If you feel trapped but also cannot pay lawyers extra money, this law also covers attorneys’ fees.
“The concept would be that you shouldn’t get paid out by the attorney just because your contractor broke the law,” Best said.
The Better Business Bureau says Hydro Dynamic Pools received 25 recent complaints leading to Kornfeind’s arrest.