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Are You a Home Improvement Contractor? Know the law.

 

By: Marshall Chriswell

All contractors performing home improvements in Pennsylvania are subject to the Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act,¬†73 P.S. 517-1, et seq. Many contractors are not aware of this law, which carries strict requirements and harsh consequences for those who don’t comply.

As a lawyer practicing business law, many of my clients are self-employed. Plumbers, electricians, masons, carpenters, kitchen/bath installers, and even handymen are all considered “home improvement contractors” under the Act.

Contractors must comply with the Act when they perform any of the following services for more than $500.00:

(i) Repair, replacement, remodeling, demolition, removal, renovation, installation, alteration, conversion, modernization, improvement, rehabilitation or sandblasting.

(ii) Construction, replacement, installation or improvement of driveways, swimming pools, pool houses, porches, garages, roofs, siding, insulation, solar energy

(iii) Without regard to affixation, the installation of central heating, air conditioning, storm windows or awnings.


As you can see, the definition of a “Home Improvement” under the Act is very broad. Further, there are very specific requirements that every contractor must follow.

First, all home improvement contractors must register with the office of the Pennsylvania Attorney General. The registration process is relatively simple, and can be completed online (for a small fee) at the Attorney General’s website.¬†Registrants also must prove that they carry at least $50,000.00 in liability insurance to protect their customers.

Once a contractor is registered, they will be provided with a registration number that must be prominently displayed on all advertisements (including those appearing on vehicles), and written contracts.

Second, the Act requires contractors to use written contracts for all home improvement services. If contractors do work without a written contract, they may not be able to collect payment from a non-paying customer. All contracts must include very specific terms, including:

  • The date of the transaction
  • The name, address, and telephone number of the contractor and any subcontractors
  • The approximate start and end date of the project
  • A description of the work to be performed
  • The total sales price under the contract.
  • The toll-free number for the Attorney General’s office to request information about the contractor, and
  • The customers three-day right to rescission of the agreement.

 

Finally, the Act prohibits specific acts of misrepresentation by a contractor, and subjects violators to criminal prosecution, up to and including felony charges.

The Act imposes various other restrictions on home improvement contractors. Violations of the Act can result in not only the inability to collect from a non-paying customer, but also hefty fines for the contractor.

Anyone providing home improvement services should consult an attorney regarding their obligations under Pennsylvania law.