Since July 1, 2009, the Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act (HICPA) has been in effect in Pennsylvania. In short, it covers and governs the behavior of non “Big Box” (eg Home Depot) home improvement contractors toward Pennsylvania consumers. The definition of a contractor is fairly broad and the enforcement of the law is through the Bureau of Consumer Protection of the Pennsylvania Attorney General (Bureau).
Perhaps the most critical aspect of the law is the establishment of the requirement of a written contract between the contractor and the consumer. Further, not only MUST there be a written contract, there are certain elements each contract MUST contain. There are certain items the contract must NOT contain, as well.
Yet, even with almost 6 years for the home improvement profession to have acclimated itself to the law’s provisions, we continue to have clients come to us with home improvement “contracts” that fall well below the required elements which HICPA demands.
Unfortunately, our office usually sees these improper “contracts” AFTER the work is done, money has been paid, yet with such work done much to the client’s dissatisfaction. In most cases, shoddy work has gone hand in hand with improper “contracts”.
Had the client known a) what the mandatory elements are relative to a HICPA compliant contract and b) found the presented “contracts” as failing to contain those items, a RED flag would have been raised that may have stopped the client from ever having engaged the services of that particular contractor.
The entire law is linked here:
In short, there are certain ESSENTIAL elements a home improvement contract must have in order to be valid. The failure of the “contract” to contain even one of the following elements renders the contract VOID.
Among other items, each contact must:
- Include an approximate start date and ending date
- Include a description of the work; materials to be use as well as specifications. ANY change to the initial order relative to materials and specifications must ALSO be in writing and signed by the owner.
- Include all known subcontractor names, addresses and phone numbers.
- Include a statement that the contractor will maintain insurance throughout the contract AND the amount of the insurance policy.
- Be legible
- Contain the Bureau registration number of the contractor
- Contain the toll free number of the Bureau
- Include a notice of a Right of Rescission, allowing for the consumer to rescind the contract within 3 business days of signing the contract.
- Further, there are certain items that are NOT to be included as well. Chief among them is that a contact may NOT contain any provision that allows for an award to the contractor of attorney fees and lawsuit costs.
So, the next time you are interested in having your driveway re-paved, your roof replaced, your kitchen remodeled, etc., take a look at the suggested contract from any “contractor” you interview. See if the samples at least remotely line up with the noted items above. While there are other items that should be in the contract ( as well as some that should NOT ), if the suggested contract does not even cover the basics noted in point 1-9, perhaps you should treat such as a red flag in consideration of that contractor.
It is best to run any contract by an attorney, when possible. I would be happy to discuss this with anyone in pursuit of home improvement contractor services. Getting “it” in writing, up front, can best serve to lessen, if not eliminate, disappointment, down the road.