Gansler orders builder to pay refunds

Bryan Cohen Aug. 18, 2011, 1:22pm


BALTIMORE (Legal Newsline) - Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler announced on Wednesday that his Consumer Protection Division issued a final order requiring a home builder and its principal to refund payments and pay penalties.

Steven Hessler and his company, Charm City Builders Inc., must refund payments of $111,637.74 collected from multiple consumers to build a home in Baltimore County, Md., and must pay penalties of $9,000 and costs of $4,026.69.

The division alleged that Hessler and his company violated Maryland's Custom Home Protection Act by failing to place money paid by the customers in an escrow account and failing to have a surety bond to cover the deposits and payments made. Hessler and his company allegedly also violated the Consumer Protection Act and the Home Builder Registration Act by failing to build a home as promised or return the money already paid.

The order bars Charm City Builders Inc. and Hessler from acting as a home builder in the state unless they meet requirements set by the division in order to be registered as a homebuilder under the state's Home Builder Registration Act.

"Before any money changes hands, you need to protect the biggest investment of your lifetime," Gansler said. "Make sure that your home is built by a registered home builder and that any deposits are protected by an escrow account, bond or letter of credit. "

The division's Home Builder Registration Unit has entered into settlement agreements with 56 other home builders during the past six months. The builders agreed to pay penalties totaling $37,800 to settle allegations that they violated Maryland's building laws, which includes operating an unregistered business or failing to disclose required information to the unit in their registration applications.

The settlements prohibit the companies from acting as home builders in the state until they register with the unit and they comply with other state laws governing home builders.

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