The Action News Troubleshooters tested a state system designed to protect consumers from hiring a contractor with a history of complaints.
The Troubleshooters found major deficiencies with the system last year. The Pennsylvania Attorney General's office, which runs it, promised to make changes.
So, one year later, have they been made?
READ | Troubleshooters: Contractor continues to take jobs despite Pa. registration deactivation
"I just want no one else to have to go through this," said Lisa Triolo of Perkasie, Bucks County.
Triolo won a civil judgment against a contractor named Ray Cedar.
Before she hired him, he had pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in connection with a case brought on behalf of two other consumers in criminal court.
"I don't want him to ever do it to anyone else again," said Jess DeMarco of Westampton, New Jersey.
However, the Troubleshooters have continued to receive complaints about Cedar, who's operated under various business names.
"I can't believe he is driving around advertising and doing work for people, " said Dave Clark of Langhorne, Bucks County.
To avoid contractors with troubled histories, there is a place you can go for information.
Pennsylvania requires contractors to register with the state and provide critical details about insurance, criminal history, civil judgments, bankruptcies, and prior business names.
The problem is that last year, Action News found the office in charge of contractor registration was not providing important details by phone, email, or online.
"They're failing in that department with communicating to consumers," said Triolo back in 2022.
After our investigation, the Attorney General's office promised to improve, stating, "We did not follow our own protocols (...) and we can do better."
And they have made some changes.
"We've not only trained the staff who handles our registrations but all of our staff who handle any kind of customer inquiries," said Pennsylvania Deputy Attorney General Sarah Frasch.
In light of this, the Troubleshooters tested the system again.
And this time, at least by phone and by email, we did get a lot of important information from officials.
"That's very good to hear," noted Frasch.
But, you have to call or email the state to request insurance and background information.
Consumers still cannot get that information on the official website, which the Attorney General's office promises it's updating.
When asked if Triolo would have hired Cedar knowing he had a criminal history she said, "Absolutely not".
Another remaining issue is you can search the registration system on the website by only the business name, not the contractor's name.
So for now, don't rely solely on the website, since business names can change. Instead, call or email the Attorney General's office so you can check a contractor's history using his or her name.
After Action News' 2022 report, officials deactivated Cedar's registration, which means he cannot legally work as a contractor in Pennsylvania.
Cedar says he has no comment on the issue.
More information from the Pennsylvania Attorney General:
What is required to be in a home improvement contract?
(1) The home improvement contractor registration number of the performing contractor;
(2) Signature by the consumer and the contractor;
(3) The date of the transaction;
(4) The name, address, and telephone number of the contractor;
(5) The approximate starting date and completion date;
(6) A description of the work to be performed, the materials to be used, and a set of specifications;
(7) The sales price;
(8) The amount of any down payment;
(9) The names, addresses, and telephone numbers of all subcontractors on the project known at the date of signing the contract;
(10) The current amount of insurance coverage;
(11) The toll-free telephone number for the Office of Attorney General
(12) A notice of the right of rescission;
(13) Three-day right to cancel provision.
What info can consumers obtain from our office on a contractor who is registered?
- Business name and contact info
- Officers, directors, owners, etc.
- Prior business names
- Additional business names
- Insurance info
- Yes or no answer to the following questions:
(A) Have you ever been convicted of a criminal offense related to a home improvement transaction;
(B) Have you ever been convicted of a criminal offense related to fraud;
(C) Have you ever been convicted of a criminal offense related to a crime of deception;
(D) Have you ever been convicted of a criminal offense related to a crime involving fraudulent business practices;
(E) Have you ever filed a petition for bankruptcy;
(F) Within the last ten years, have you received a final civil judgment against you that was related to a home improvement transaction;
(G) Has your certificate or a similar certificate or license issued by any other state or political subdivision ever been revoked or suspended according to an order issued by a court and, if so, what is the current status of the certificate or similar certificate or license;
(H) Within the last ten years have you ever been suspended or debarred from participating in any Federal, State, local or not-for-profit program through which public funding or other assistance is provided to owners for home improvements?
Contractor Registration Email: HIC@attorneygeneral.gov
Contractor Registration Hotline: 1-888-520-6680