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The bank accounts of Justin R. Jerge, operator of a much-criticized local home improvement business, were frozen by court order Thursday as State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman began a State Supreme Court lawsuit seeking thousands of dollars for customers Jerge allegedly bilked and to bar him from the home improvement business unless he posts a $200,000 bond for future work.

State Supreme Court Justice Jeremiah J. Moriarty III issued a temporary restraining order at Schneiderman’s request freezing the bank accounts of Jerge and his JRJ Contracting business of Gasport and barring him from accepting any advance payments from future customers.

Schneiderman said Jerge is accused of taking more than $50,000 from a Buffalo area couple to renovate their home so their disabled adult daughter could continue to live with them and then only performing what Schneiderman described as a little “substandard” work for the couple. Schneiderman said Jerge also recently took $6,500 from a customer Schneiderman would only describe as “a member of the Armed Services” but never did any work for that customer.

“With more and more New Yorkers making home improvements to their homes this season, unsuspecting homeowners can easily fall prey to unscrupulous contractors,” Schneiderman said. “My office will continue to seek out dishonest contractors who defraud innocent New Yorkers and ensure they’re held accountable,” he added.

Assistant Attorney General James Morrissey and Karen Davis, the senior consumer fraud representative in Schneiderman’s Buffalo-based regional office, said the lawsuit seeks both refunds for Jerge’s jilted customers and civil penalties for his alleged violations of state consumer protection laws.

Morrissey and Davis said anyone with as yet undocumented complaints about Jerge’s work should contact Schneiderman’s consumer help line at (800) 771-7755 or the Buffalo regional office at 853-8400.

Schneiderman personally advised homeowners to shop wisely and never agree to home improvement work done on the spot by door-to-door “contractors.”

He said property owners should shop around and get at least three estimates from reputable contractors that include specific information about the materials and services to be provided, insist on references and always contact the references a contractor provides and check with the Better Business Bureau, banks, suppliers and neighbors for prior work by the firm.

Schneiderman also said he recommends insisting on a written contract that includes the price and description of the work to be done. He said homeowners should not pay unreasonable advance sums to contractors and never pay the full price up front. He said they should negotiate a payment schedule tied to the completion of the job.

“Remember,” Schneiderman said in advising homeowners in need of home repairs “you have three days to cancel after signing a home improvement contract, but all cancellations must be in writing.”

email: mgryta@buffnews.com