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The Times-Tribune Feature: Pennsylvania Homebuilder Scott Binsack
Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Detractors, growing debt dog local builder
Scott Binsack makes his trade as a home builder, but his best tools are his mastery of marketing and his magnetic charisma. Ken Jacoby, a local excavator who has dealt with Mr. Binsack, phrased it best in saying he could “talk a hound off a meat truck.” But a growing group of detractors now say the marketing and charisma that helped Mr. Binsack craft a high-end home-building company from scratch in four years serves as a thin veil concealing a pattern of deception and unpaid debt.

How to resolve a contractor problem

Preventative measures

A sliver of prevention is better than a 2-by-4 of cure. Consumers can avoid many potential problems by doing their homework before hiring a contractor.

The first step is contacting references and visiting completed projects. Checking with the Better Business Bureau and the attorney general’s office for complaints could also provide information.

When preparing a contract, the agreement should be as detailed as possible, including types of materials and a timeline.

“Reputable contractors may be busy and they may not be the most pleasant individuals, but they will want to show off their past work and don’t shy away from detailed contracts and timelines,” said Nils Frederickson, of the state attorney general’s office. “Conversely, con artists have always been slick, personable and had the best pitch. For them, it’s all about the pitch.”

Frequent communication

Visiting the work site often and giving contractors feedback often stops problems before they become problems. When Scott Elliott, of the Pennsylvania Builders Association, had his bathroom remodeled, he sent daily e-mails to contractors, praising them about the work and sometimes questioning it.

“In a few cases, we undid stuff when it was easy to do so,” he said. “Consumers shouldn’t be passive.”

Dispute resolution

Builders or customers may request an arbitration clause in the contract to help resolve disputes. Local builder associations or the Better Business Bureau also offer mediation services to settle disputes to keep the parties out of court.

Going to court

Hiring an attorney is costly and often deepens the bitterness between builders and customers. When all else fails, however, it can be the only recourse available.

Making a complaint

General complaints may be made to the Better Business Bureau. Issues involving deception or non-performance may be made to the Consumer Protection Hotline of the state Attorney General’s office at 800-441-2555.

For more information, contact the Pennsylvania Builders Association at 800-692-7339 or www.pabuilders.org; the state attorney general at www.attorneygeneral.gov; or the Better Business Bureau of Northeastern Pennsylvania at 614-4222 or www.nepa.bbb.org.


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