The answers to your questions are difficult to answer without specific facts and your legal rights and remedies will vary based on the scope of work and whether the contractor is state licensed. Performing "work not asked for" may be for a variety of reasons including a requirement to meet code, hidden problems, etc. Whether it is proper to charge for this will also depend on the contract and the scope of work. If the contractor has actually performed work, the likelihood of getting someone to pursue a criminal fraud action is unlikely. However there may be civil fraud. Overall, my suggestion would be that you talk to a knowledgeable construction attorney to determine what your rights and remedies are, even if it is something you decide to pursue in small claims. You can improve your likelihood of success if you understand what the issues are, what facts are relevant and how to present them whether before a judge or before the state contractor licensing board.
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A contractor who doesn't honor the contract is liable civilly and if he is cheating the customer, he could be liable civilly. Also a contractor who isn't properly licensed, charges for work not in contract, etc. may be liable civilly and maybe criminally. The state consumer affairs agency may be able to help but you probably need your own lawyer.
Lawrence Friedman, Bridgewater, NJ. Certified as an Elder Law Attorney by the ABA approved National Elder Law Foundation, former Chair NJ State Bar Association Elder and Disabilities Law Section, Member Board of Consultors of NJSBA Real Property, Trusts & Estates Law Section, Vice Chair Special Needs Law Section of National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, and Master of Laws (LL.M.) in Taxation from N.Y.U. School of Law. Visit SpecialNeedsNJ.com for articles and Q&A on elder law, special needs, wills, trusts, estates, and tax. Visit SpecialNeedsNJ.com/blog and subscribe for free timely updates to be delivered to your inbox. Information on both Avvo and SpecialNeedsNJ.com does not constitute legal advice, as it is general in nature and may not apply to your situation or be subject to important changes. No attorney client relationship exists unless set forth in written engagement terms.
There are a bunch of things at play here. All I can tell you is to speak with an experienced consumer attorney who also litigates. I do as well as others on this forum. If you want to talk, my phone # is (404) 303-8875. There are also many other talented attorneys on this forum you could speak to as well. Either way. Good luck & take care.
Sam Levine, Esq.
In addition to the responses of my colleagues I would also suggest you contact the local district attorneys office on consumer fraud. There are special, harsher provisions that apply to those that prey upon the elderly and if a criminal court orders the contractor to make restitution as a part of his sentence, you are much more likely to receive your money than by collecting on a civil judgment against the contractor. Hope your folks are doing OK after this turmoil.
Law Offices of Robert G. Rothstein
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I agree with the prior answers and add that this situation involves multiple areas of the law: Construction, elder law, consumer protection, fraud, and maybe more. When you select a lawyer to talk with, find out if they are comfortable with all of those legal areas; if not, they should consult with attorneys in other areas of practice focus, to make sure all aspects of your case are covered.
I don't know enough yet, but you could have a very good case here, given all factors. A good lawyer should be happy to give you an evaluation before you commit to hiring.