Hiring a Contractor? Know Your Rights.
By Michael E. Fiffik, Esquire
Warmer weather is a popular season for home improvement projects such as new floors, renovated bathrooms and larger decks. If you plan to hire a contractor to do the work, know your rights under Pennsylvania’s Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act.
Your Contractor Should be Registered with the State
The Act requires all home improvement contracts to be registered with the Attorney General’s office. Your contractor will have an “HIC” number if registered. You should check on your contractor here. The registry will tell you if the registration is current, list any complaints against the contractor and provide you with valuable information necessary to make a decision whether to hire this company for your project.
Don’t Sign The Contract With These Items Missing
The Act also requires the contractor to provide you with a written contract containing certain key terms, including:
the approximate starting date and completion date for the work;
a description of the work to be performed, the materials to be used and a set of specifications that cannot be changed without a written change order signed by the home owner;
the total sales price due under the contract;
the toll-free number of the Pennsylvania Bureau of Consumer Protection;
the three-business-day notice of the right of rescission pursuant to the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law; and
cannot require a deposit of more than one-third (1/3) or less of the contract price in home improvement contracts in excess of $1,000, plus any special order materials.
You must be provided a copy of the signed contract for free and cannot be required to pay any deposit until you receive the fully signed contact. Contracts that do not comply with the Act are not enforceable by the contractor.
We Help Resolve Contractor Disputes
We help homeowners who have disputes with contractors. Common problems include shoddy work, project delays, failure to start or complete projects, refusal to fix bad work and overcharging. In many instances the contractor has not complied with the requirements of the Act. Failure to comply with the Act can give the homeowner good defenses to a contractor’s unfair claims for payment. In addition violations of the Act constitute violations of the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law, which provides for the potential recovery of three times the consumer’s actual damages and attorneys’ fees. We can be effective advocates for homeowners in such disputes.