Consumer (an online resource guide)

State Office of Agriculture and Consumer Services- a wealth of info and complaint forms. 804-786-2373

Office of Attorney General–investigates major statewide scams. 804-786-2071. The office also runs a consumer hotline. 1-800-451-1525.

Better Business Bureau- closest one is in Richmond. (local line: 971-3707; long-distance: 804-648-0016)

Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation- the state body that yanks licenses of unscrupulous contractors. 804-367-8500

State Corporation Commission- They supposedly keep the regulated utilites from overrunning consumers. 804-371-9967.

Legal Aid Society - helps low-income citizens with housing, public benefits, employment, consumer protection, and problems concerning the rights of children and the elderly. 977-0553 or (clients only) 800-963-7323.

The Virginia Poverty Law Center - Lawyers there will fight for your rights. 804-782-9430

Certified mediators- There's at least one non-profit, and it's called the Mediation Center of Charlottesville 977-2926. Others can be found by asking or Googling around.

–>>See our Real estate section for more tips.

If all else fails: "small claims court"
In Virginia, small claims courts have jurisdiction over civil cases where a plaintiff is looking for a money judgement or recovery of personal property worth up to  $5,000. General District Court cases have a dollar limit of $4,500. Examples of civil cases are landlord/tenant disputes, contract disputes, and personal injury actions. The clerk can explain the procedures for filing.

Not sure who to sue? Find a company through the SCC by calling 804-371-9733.

–>>See our Courts rundown in the Government section