WASHINGTON, D. C. – Attorney General Karl A. Racine today announced a lawsuit against Xquisite Basements & Kitchens, Inc. and Newton Gaynor—a contractor and its owner-operator—for illegal or incomplete construction projects and cheating employees out of their pay. In the complaint, the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) alleges the contractor duped seniors and other consumers into paying for lower-quality home repair services than promised; opened unauthorized credit lines for consumers; and made charges without their permission. The OAG’s complaint seeks injunctive and monetary relief for victims, as well as penalties.
“The defendants preyed on seniors, made shoddy home repairs, charged consumers without their permission, and failed to pay its employees,” said Attorney General Racine. “We’re suing to bring relief to the victims and warn cheating contractors that we will take action to protect our residents and enforce District law.”
Xquisite Basements & Kitchens, Inc. is a District-licensed home improvement contractor doing business in D.C. and Bowie, Maryland. Xquisite offers and sells home improvement services that include remodeling and renovation of bathrooms, kitchens, and basements. The company is owned and operated by Gaynor, a licensed home improvement salesman in the District. The company promoted its services to consumers by leaving marketing materials at their homes, making cold calls, and advertising online. In meetings with potential clients, Xquisite told consumers they would beat or match competitor’s prices and offered to match their services.
According to the OAG’s complaint, Gaynor represented that his company had the “fastest ever project completion time,” was “first in customer service,” and offered a “money back guarantee if you are not 100% satisfied.” Instead, Xquisite delivered incomplete renovation projects, often leaving consumers with no lights or water in parts of their home for months. The vast majority of the victims the OAG has identified in the complaint are over the age of 50, and Gaynor appears to have targeted seniors in his marketing.
The OAG’s complaint alleges these practices violated the District’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act. Specifically, Xquisite and Gaynor’s alleged violations include:
- Failing to provide home improvement services the company promised: In one case, defendants took $37,000 in payments from a consumer for home improvement services, only provided minor demolition work, and stopped communicating with the consumer.
- Opening credit lines, charging and overcharging consumers without their permission: The complaint alleges that the defendants failed to disclose they were charging consumers more than their contracts specified, and also that they made withdrawals from consumers’ credit lines without informing consumers or obtaining their authorization.
- Refusing to provide refunds to consumers when services as advertised were not provided: In many instances, the defendants failed to perform the services and then either refused to return payments to consumers who requested refunds, promised refunds to consumers that they failed to pay, or used threats to intimidate or coerce consumers to abandon their requests for refunds.
- Failing to obtain required project permits and be properly insured: For one project, the defendants contracted to renovate the siding of a consumer’s home and to install a deck on the rear of the property, but did not apply or obtain any permits to do any of the work.
- Employing unlicensed subcontractors: In several instances, subcontractors (such as electricians) hired by the defendants obtained permits for the work, but the people actually performing the work were unlicensed workers who were not named on those permits and were unrelated to the named subcontractor.
Wage Theft Allegations
In addition to consumer violations, the complaint alleges Gaynor failed to pay his employees for all hours worked as required by District law. While some employees were partially paid, some never received a paycheck at all. The complaint estimates that Gaynor failed to pay tens of thousands of dollars to several of its employees.
A copy of the complaint is available at here.
The OAG’s lawsuit seeks restitution for victims, an injunction to stop the illegal behavior, and damages, penalties, and court costs. The complaint is not a finding or ruling that the defendant has actually violated the law.
How to Report Consumer & Wage Theft Violations
Consumers who believe that they have been defrauded by contractors may contact the OAG Office of Consumer Protection at (202) 442-9892, by e-mailing email@example.com, or by filing a complaint via our webform.
Workers who believe that they have experienced wage theft or other wage violations can contact the Office of the Attorney General’s Housing and Community Justice Section by phone at (202) 442-9854. Workers can access the OAG resources in both English and Spanish, which provides information about the District’s wage and hour laws and information about where workers can get help if their rights are being violated.