February 24th, 2022

The Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act and How it Protects You

With many employers implementing work-from-home policies dating back to March 2020 and extending to the present, homeowners have had more time and opportunity to improve facets of their household. Whether it is a new outdoor patio or an updated kitchen, assembling the “dream home” is seemingly always one project away. Though, if you’re like me, then the phrases “do it yourself” or “assembly required” make me sprint toward a Google search for a nearby contractor. I’m just saying, if my life was Parks and Rec, then I’m Ben Wyatt, not Ron Swanson. I’ll gladly write a check.  

This reality, now more than ever, has allowed contracting companies to financially thrive based on increased opportunities to assist in home improvement endeavors. Unfortunately, with increased opportunity for hire comes increased opportunity to fail to abide by the requisite legal requirements in entering into and completing home improvement contracts. Premediated fraud, unfit contractors, and overwhelming supply-chain issues have been commonplace in today’s world, and there has been an undoubted increase in unfinished or delayed contracts, failures to pay or refund payment, or contracts completed with poor workmanship.

Fortunately, the attorneys at Gross McGinley have the expertise to protect parties on either side of a home improvement contractual dispute.

Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act, 73 P.S. 517.1

The Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act governs any contract entered into between a contractor and homeowner in connection with a private residence or land attached to a private residence, for which the total price of all work agreed upon between the contract and owner is more than $500, and concerns any “repair, replacement, remodeling, demolition, removal, renovation, installation, alteration, conversion, modernization, improvement, rehabilitation or sandblasting” work to the home. While new construction of homes is not covered, construction, replacement, installation, or improvement of driveways, swimming pools, pool houses, porches, garages, roofs, siding, insulation, or solar energy do fall under the Act’s purview.

Home improvement contracts are unlike other contracts where often verbal agreements or a “meeting of the minds” is satisfactory to establish duties on both sides, and it is important to understand this distinction when determining your own legal requirements. Any contract that is deemed a home improvement contract must follow precise rules in order to be enforceable. Therefore, if these specific drafting rules are not followed, the contractor has no legal right to payment, and the homeowner has no obligation to pay the contractor for his work.

Generally, under The Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act, no home improvement contract shall be valid or enforceable against an owner unless it:

  • Is in writing and legible
  • Contains the contractors’ home improvement contractor registration number
  • Is signed by the owner or his/her agent and the contractor or a salesperson on behalf of a contractor
  • Contains the entire agreement between the parties
  • Contains the date of the transaction
  • Contains the name, address, and phone number of the contractor or subcontractor
  • Contains the approximate starting and completion date
  • Contains a description of the work to be performed, the materials to be used, and specifications that cannot be changed without a written, signed change order signed by both parties
  • Contains the total sales price due under the contract or a time and materials provision in writing.
  • Contains an initial cost estimate
  • Contains the amount of any down payment or advanced payment
  • Contains a notation to the liability insurance obtained by the contractor

Notably, a violation of any of the provisions of the Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act is deemed a violation of the Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law. This Act is intended to provide protection to consumers from any deceptive or unfair practices, and in this context, allows a homeowner to recover treble damages (three times the number of damages actually suffered) and attorneys’ fees if a home improvement contract is not acceptable.

While the above provides a general outline of what must be contained in a home improvement contract and how such contracts are often interpreted, this is only meant to serve as an overview. It is still vital for both parties to a contract to consult a lawyer prior to entering into such agreements or if either party is attempting to initiate an action or recover monies against the other.

If you are a homeowner and have been taken advantage of by a contractor, whether that means the contracted work has not been completed, is unnecessarily delayed, or was done with poor workmanship, an experienced attorney will be able to explain your rights and navigate you through the legal process. Further, having an attorney on your side will allow you to take the appropriate steps to ensure that the contract you entered into is abided by and/or you receive necessary refunds and monies for work that was not completed or needs to be redone, along with attorneys’ fees and other potential damages.

If you are a contractor, we are able to assist you with all of your legal needs in drafting and entering into contracts that can prevent a lawsuit from ever being initiated against you, explore possible legal defenses or counterclaims, or seek to obtain rightful payment under an adequately performed and drafted contract.

From both sides of the spectrum, entering into and completing your obligations under a contract can cause conflict, and knowing and acting on your rights with the appropriate representation could be the difference between a new kitchen and a new problem.