New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has sent letters to 530 Southern Tier home-improvement contractors, including those in the Oneonta area, warning them to abide by state laws.

Cuomo's Binghamton Regional Office has received more consumer complaints about home-improvement contractors than any other category of business.

The complaints included poor workmanship, misrepresentation/non-disclosure in contracts, billing disputes, non-delivery of goods and non-performance of work agreed to by the contractor, according to a media release from Cuomo's office.

State General Business Law Article 36-A sets standards that contractors must follow in delivering their services.

Violations of the law result in fines ranging from $100 to $2,500.

"These laws exist to help consumers avoid being ripped off," Cuomo said in the release. "Unfortunately, while most contractors work hard to provide quality services, there are fly-by-night scam artists looking to cheat the system.

"Knowing these laws can help protect both consumers and legitimate businesses across the state," he continued.

The 530 contractors are from the eight counties in the Southern Tier region.

The following contract provisions for projects more than $500 are among those required by state law:

Home-improvement contracts for more than $500 must be in writing.

These contracts must include start and completion dates.

They must include disclosure of the possibility of lien being placed on the property.

There must be disclosure that the contractor is required to deposit all payments received from the consumer prior to substantial completion of the work in a separate bank account no later than five days after receipt.

Disclosure of the consumer's unconditional right to cancel the contract with three days.

The attorney general's office also advises the following when using a contractor for a home improvement project:

Never pay the full price up front.

Get everything in writing.

Identify the full scope of your project.

Shop around for contractors.

Know what permits are needed.

Get references and check them.

Get proof of insurance.

Check licenses were necessary.

A website _ _ was developed last year by the attorney general's office that allows area residents to check for contractors that have been subject to legal action or who have substantiated consumer complaints filed against them.

Southern Tier consumers who believe they may be a victim of fraud by a contractor or any other business are urged to call the attorney general's Binghamton Regional Office at 721-8771.

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