Herring announces enforcement actions against unlicensed contractors
The three unlicensed contractors are Ricky Harmon Pettit, operating under Pettit’s Home Improvement, Ricky H. Pettit Home Improvement, and R. H. Pettit Builders in Central and Northern Virginia; Timothy Oneal White, operating as White Renovation and Construction and White Renovations in the City of Roanoke; and Gerald Lee Whitfield, operating as Whitfield’s Home Improvements in the City of Chesapeake. Each of the unlicensed contractors allegedly committed numerous violations of the Virginia Consumer Protection Act, which generally prohibits the use of any deception, fraud, false pretense, false promise, or misrepresentation in connection with a consumer transaction.
“No one should have to worry about whether the contractor they have hired to work on their home is licensed or trained to do the work they say they can,” said Attorney General Herring. “These unlicensed contractors are not only lying to consumers they are potentially putting them in danger with shoddy workmanship. My Consumer Protection section will continue to investigate claims of fraud and abuse against consumers and take action where we can to stop it.”
Ricky Harmon Pettit – Pettit’s Home Improvement, Ricky H. Pettit Home Improvement, and R. H. Pettit Builders
The Attorney General has filed a lawsuit against Ricky Harmon Pettit for providing unlicensed contractor work in consumers’ homes in Central and Northern Virginia. The lawsuit alleges that in several instances Pettit offered contractor services to consumers, obtained money before performing those services, and failed to complete those services. Pettit also falsely told consumers that he was insured and licensed with the Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation Board for Contractors. The Complaint alleges Pettit violated the Consumer Protection Act by:
- Representing that he was a plumber, when he has never held a tradesmen license with a plumbing specialty as required by statute;
- Taking payments of $2,524.99 from one consumer to install floor and wall tiles in a bathroom, and later install a toilet, pedestal sink, and water heater, and never finishing the work;
- Taking payments of $21,000.00 from another consumer to renovate the consumer’s kitchen, and never finishing the work;
- Representing himself as licensed and insured on business documents including an invoice, a business card, a written contract, and his website, when Pettit was not licensed and insured;
- Making other false statements and unfulfilled promises throughout his transactions with consumers; and
- Undertaking work without a valid Virginia contractor’s license when a license is required.
Timothy Oneal White – White Renovation and Construction, and White Renovations
The Attorney General reached a settlement with Timothy Oneal White related to unlicensed contractor work performed in the City of Roanoke.
- Specifically, the Attorney General alleges that White violated the Consumer Protection Act by, among other things:
- Undertaking work without a valid Virginia contractor’s license;
- Taking payments of $6,650 from one consumer to complete various renovations to the consumer’s home bathroom including plumbing to make it accessible for persons with mobility issues, and never finishing the work;
- Representing that he was a plumber, when he has never held a tradesmen license with a plumbing specialty as required by statute; and
- Making various other misrepresentations and deceptions in his interactions with the consumer.
Under the Assurance of Voluntary Compliance, White is prohibited from operating as a contractor without a required license and will have to pay $6,650 in restitution to the affected consumer, $2,500 for civil penalties and $500 for attorney’s fees and expenses. The Assurance of Voluntary Compliance has been adopted and approved by the Roanoke City Circuit Court.
Gerald Lee Whitfield – Whitfield’s Home Improvements
The Attorney General has reached a settlement with Gerald Lee Whitfield alleging that Whitfield committed numerous violations of the Virginia Consumer Protection Act by:
- Undertaking work without a valid Virginia contractor’s license;
- Taking payments of $8,796 from one consumer to complete various remodeling projects in the consumer’s home, including framing, hanging drywall, painting, and refinishing floors, and never finishing the work;
- Describing himself in writing as a “Contractor”;
- Representing that he was licensed to do electrical work, when he has never held a tradesmen license with an electrical specialty as required by statute; and
- Making various other false statements and unfulfilled promises in his interactions with the consumer.
Under the Assurance of Voluntary Compliance, Whitfield will be prohibited from operating as a contractor and electrician and will have to pay $4,398 for restitution to the affected consumer, $2,000 for civil penalties, and $500 for attorneys’ fees and expenses. The Assurance of Voluntary Compliance has been filed for approval with the Chesapeake Circuit Court.
The three matters were handled for the Commonwealth by Assistant Attorney General Stephen John Sovinsky and Investigator Christopher Olson.
Consumers are encouraged to remember these tips when hiring a contractor:
- Hire only licensed contractors.
- Verify the contractor’s license status and check on any complaints with the Board for Contractors at www.dpor.virginia.gov/LicenseLookup/ or call (804) 367-8511.
- Get referrals from friends, neighbors or co-workers.
- Check references and look at past work.
- Get written estimates from at least three contractors.
- Don’t automatically choose the lowest bid. Ask for an explanation of price differences.
- Get a signed contract that includes start and completion dates, payment schedule, all materials needed, any promises or warranties.
- Limit any down payment.
- Don’t pay cash.
- Don’t pay in full before all work is complete to your satisfaction.
- Keep all paperwork.
- You have three days to cancel most sales made at your home. If you have second thoughts, consider exercising this right.
If you think you have been a victim of an unlicensed contractor please reach out to the Office through Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-800-552-9963, or file a complaint on its website.
During Attorney General Herring’s administration, the Consumer Protection Section has undergone a significant reorganization and expansion, and recovered more than $243 million in relief for consumers and payments from violators.