A Downers Grove home improvement contractor is being sued by Illinois Attorney General’s Consumer Fraud division for allegedly defrauding hundreds of home owners in 12 counties around the state.
Representatives of Lisa Madigan filed a lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court Nov. 15, alleging that American Dream Home Improvement Inc. used deceptive tactics to obtain home repair business, then performed “shoddy or incomplete” work.
The alleged fraud impacted homeowners in Cook, DuPage, Grundy, Kane, Knox, Lake, McHenry, Peoria, Rock Island, Whiteside, Will and Winnebago counties.
Madigan says the forms American Dream Home Improvement representatives had home owners sign were “misleading, contained contradictory information and did not include required disclosures such as the work to be performed, parts and materials, total cost or charges, the start or completion dates.”
The forms also did not have a “Notice of Cancellation,” which is required by state law.
The suit asks the court to order American Dream Home to pay restitution to affected homeowners, impose civil penalties and ban the company from doing further business in Illinois.
The LinkedIn account of American Dream Home Improvement’s owner and president Michael Gray states that his company “specializes in working with insurance companies on assessing and repairing properties that are damaged from wind and hail damage.”
“American Dream Home has been more of a nightmare for hundreds of Illinois homeowners,” Madigan said Nov. 16. “The company has a history of scamming people into expensive repair work they did not want, and today’s lawsuit should put an end to their deceptive practices.”
Madigan said American Dream Home Improvement’s salespeople’s general practice was to go door-to-door after extreme weather events, “offering free property inspections, home repair services and public adjusting services.”
Investigators say homeowners were pushed to sign forms believing they were only agreeing to home inspections, but that American Dream Home “actually intended to enforce the documents as contracts for home repair work.”
Not only were many homeowners unaware that the forms they signed allowed American Dream Home Improvement to begin work without their consent, many were also unaware that the forms they signed obligated them to pay additional costs over and above what their insurance covered.
The company was well-known to officials in both Illinois and Indiana. The State’s Attorney Office said it has received more than 100 complaints against American Dream Home, Inc. since 2010, and that the Better Business Bureau has received more than 250 complaints in just the past three years.
American Dream Home Improvement entered into an agreement with the State of Illinois in 2012 in which it agreed to comply with state laws. Madigan said it did not honor those terms, but rather, “has continued its fraudulent practices and also continued to offer public adjuster services without being licensed by the state.
In April 10, 2015, Indiana Attorney General Gregory F. Zoeller’s office entered into an “Assurance of Voluntary Compliance” agreement with American Dream Home Improvement after Zoeller’s office accused the company of violating the Indiana Deceptive Consumer Sales Act, the Indiana Home Improvement Contracts Act, and the Indiana Home Solicitation Sales Act in dealings with Indiana home owners.
The Better Business Bureau recently found in its January 2017 review of consumer complaints against American Dream Home Improvement that the company “has delineated a pattern of consumer allegations against American Dream Home Improvement.”
Despite American Dream Home Improvement having “provided procedures detailing how they intended to address consumer concerns,” the BBB said, “the pattern of consumer allegations has continued.”
Madigan cautioned Illinois homeowners to be wary of solicitations by home improvement companies, particularly ones that solicit door-to-door.
“Before hiring a contractor, homeowners should contact my office and the Better Business Bureau and be hesitant to hire anyone who solicits home repair services door-to-door,” she said.
She further urged that any other homeowners who believe they may have been defrauded by any home improvement contractor to contact her Consumer Fraud Hotline at (800) 386-5438.
Be on the lookout
The Illinois States Attorney’s Office offers the following advice in dealing with home improvement contractors.
- Be wary of contractors who go door-to-door to offer repair services. Ask for recommendations from people you know and trust and, whenever possible, use established local contractors.
- Ask to see required state and local permits and licenses. Insurance adjusters and roofers must be licensed by state agencies. If the contractor does not have a required license, or if the name on the license doesn’t match the name on the contractor’s business card or truck, that should raise a red flag.
- Call Madigan’s Consumer Fraud Hotline (1-800-386-5438)to check out a contractor and to learn if any complaints have been filed against a particular business.
- Even if there is a need to act quickly, shop around for the best deal. Get written estimates from multiple contractors, and don’t be rushed into a deal.
- Get all of the terms of a contract in writing, and obtain a copy of the signed contract.
- Never make full payment until all the work has been completed to your satisfaction. Never pay in cash.
- Be aware that you have the right to cancel a contract within three business days if you signed it based on the contractor’s visit to your home.
- In the case of disaster repair, you have an additional right to cancel. If your insurance carrier denies coverage, you have the right to cancel the contract within five days of when your insurance carrier denies your coverage.
— AG alleges Downers Grove home improvement business committed fraud —