When Can Home Improvement Contractors Be Held Liable Under Pennsylvania Law?
In 2009 the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania enacted the “Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act”, commonly referred to as HIPCA, in an effort to protect consumers from scams and other unfair trade practices that so often occur with home improvement contractors. If you are a homeowner in need of home improvement work it would certainly be in your best interest to know a bit more about HIPCA, specifically it would be a good idea to know when a home improvement contractor can be held liable under Pennsylvania law.
HIPCA defines a contractor as someone who “owns and operates a home improvement business or who undertakes, offers to undertake or agrees to perform any home improvement.” Also, the company must have earned at least $5,000 last year. In addition, HIPCA defines “home improvement” broadly by including any of the following type of work:
“Repair, replacement, remodeling, demolition, removal, renovation, installation, alteration, conversion, modernization, improvement, rehabilitation or sandblasting.”
“Construction, replacement, installation or improvement of driveways, swimming pools, pool houses, porches, garages, roofs, siding, insulation, solar energy systems, security systems, flooring, patios, fences, gazebos, sheds, cabanas, landscaping of a type that is not excluded under paragraph (2)(vi), painting, doors and windows and waterproofing.”
HIPCA requires almost all contractors to register with the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office. Failing to register comes with very stiff penalties for a contractor. For a consumer, the registration requirement is beneficial because of the depth of information a contractor is required to supply when registering. Most importantly, however, HIPCA provides the possibility of both civil and criminal penalties when a home improvement contractor commits “home improvement fraud”, defined as a contractor who:
- makes a false or misleading statement to induce, encourage or solicit a person to enter into any written or oral agreement for home improvement services or provision of home improvement materials or to justify an increase in the previously agreed upon price;
- receives any advance payment for performing home improvement services or providing home improvement materials and fails to perform or provide such services or materials when specified in the contract taking into account any force majeure or unforeseen labor strike that would extend the time frame or unless extended by agreement with the owner and fails to return the payment received for such services or materials which were not provided by that date;
- damages a person's property with the intent to induce, encourage or solicit that person to enter into a written or oral agreement for performing home improvement services or providing home improvement materials;
- misrepresents himself or another as an employee or agent of the Federal, Commonwealth or municipal government, any other governmental unit or any public utility with the intent to cause a person to enter into any agreement for performing home improvement services or providing home improvement materials;
- misrepresents an item as a special order material or to misrepresent the cost of the special order material;
- alters a home improvement agreement, mortgage, promissory note or other document incident to performing or selling a home improvement without the consent of the consumer; or
- directly or indirectly publishes a false or deceptive advertisement in violation of State law governing advertising about home improvement.
If you believe you are the victim of home improvement fraud in Pennsylvania, contact an experienced Conshohocken, Pennsylvania real estate law attorney as soon as possible to discuss your options. Contact the real estate law attorneys at Curley & Rothman, LLC by calling 610-834-8819