Senior Law Center offers help for seniors in need

April 12, 2013 3:10:52 PM PDT
An organization that acts as an advocate for the elderly is celebrating 35 years of serving senior citizens in Philadelphia.

Sixty-three-year-old Susan Visco grew up in her house in Northeast Philadelphia and inherited it from her mother 12 years ago. Two years ago it was struck by fire. When Susan hired a contractor to make the repairs, her real problems began.

"Every time I came down here, things weren't being done," she told Action News. "I mean it was like 5 months and my house still wasn't done."

But Susan wasn't sure what to do because of the money she had already paid.

"Eight-thousand-something that he said he was going to buy all the materials, and keep the things at his warehouse. "

People over the age of 60 in the city, account for 30% of all Philadelphia homeowners. Susan is also among the hundreds of thousands of senior citizens in this country who are targeted for this type of fraud.

"Home repair contractor fraud is really an epidemic in our city and unscrupulous contractors often prey on seniors," according to Karen Buck of the Senior Law Center.

Karen Buck, who represents Senior Law Centerm, teamed up with one of the center's many volunteer law firms to help Susan free of charge.

" We took over Sue's Case in the summer of 2011 and went after this contractor to get the money back she had paid him," said John Schweder II of Pepper Hamilton, LLP.

Sue got her money back and her new contractor completed the work on her home in 6 weeks. But she has yet to forget the experience.

"I wouldn't wish it on nobody," Sue says.

The Senior Law Center says the most important thing a senior or anyone else can do when hiring a contractor is make sure they are licensed. Sue has her own advice for others like her: "My advice to them would just be careful and take your time. And make sure you check them out, which I didn't do. I made a lot of mistakes."