In arbitration, you and the contractor will present evidence and testimony to an impartial person, often referred to as a neutral or arbitrator. The neutral will resolve the dispute by issuing a legally binding decision. The Home Improvement Arbitration Program neutrals are highly experienced and well-respected professionals with expertise in the construction field. Many are attorneys and some are retired judges, but the pool also includes a broad selection of industry experts.
The arbitrator, however, is not an investigator. Instead, the role of the arbitrator is to weigh and judge the testimony and evidence presented, and to render a final, binding decision on the matter. As such, you will need to present compelling evidence to support your case. This fact sheet provides some answers to some common questions regarding the filing of a Request for Arbitration, and provides a step by step guide to the application.
Filing a Request for Arbitration: Common Questions and Answers
What are the filing requirements?
To qualify for arbitration, you must be able to prove that:
- there was a written contract for the job;
- the contractor was registered as a Home Improvement Contractor on the date the contract was signed;
- the contract was for improvements, repairs, renovations, alteration, or additions to a preexisting owner-occupied residence with no more than 4 units;
- the property or residence was located in Massachusetts;
- the property is your primary residence; and
- your Request for Arbitration will be filed within two (2) years of the contract date.
If you do not meet these requirements, then you do not meet the basic qualifications for the Home Improvement Contractor Arbitration Program. You may want to consult with an attorney to explore other legal remedies for your claim.
How much will it cost?
Your Request for Arbitration is subject to a fee based on the size of your claim:
Amount of Claim
Up to $1,999
Up to $4,999
$5,000 to $9,999
$10,000 to $24,999
$25,000 to $49,999
If the hearing is extended beyond four hours, an additional fee up to $150 per hour may be charged.
If you win your case, you may be reimbursed this fee as part of the award. If the arbitrator finds against you, this fee will not be reimbursed. This fee is not recoverable from the Guaranty Fund.
How long will my case take?
Your Request for Arbitration will be reviewed within two weeks of receipt. If your case is accepted and the additional filing fee is paid, the arbitration firm will send a notification of acceptance letter to both you and the contractor.
Generally, a hearing will be held within 60 days of this acceptance date. You will receive notice of the hearing at least 21 days in advance. The arbitrator's decision will be mailed to you no later than 14 days after the hearing is closed.
What if the contractor is bankrupt?
If the contractor has filed for bankruptcy protection, you can not pursue arbitration without permission from the bankruptcy court. Contact Consumer Affairs for more information. (Toll free: 888-283-3757)
Where do I send my application?
Send an original and two photocopy sets (3 complete sets all together) of your Request for Arbitration, as well as 3 copies of your contract to:
Home Improvement Contractor Arbitration Program
Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation
10 Park Plaza, Room 5170
Boston, MA 02116
Filing a Request for Arbitration: A Step by Step Guide
Section 1- Applicant Information
List the requested information for the homeowner or authorized tenant filing the claim.
Section 2- Agent Information
Complete this section only if someone other than yourself will be representing you in this action.
Section 3- Qualification List
Circle yes or no to each question.
Section 4- Contractor Information
Complete this information about the contractor against whom you are bringing this claim. Contact the Office of Consumer Affairs to obtain the contractor's registration information. (Toll free: 888-283-3757)
The contractor must have been registered on the date the contract was signed.
Section 5- Contract Information
This section pertains to the contract which was signed by both you and the contractor.
A. Fill in the latest date that appears next to either party's signature on the contract.
B. Fill in the total price which you agreed to pay for the contracted work. It should include all down payments, payments made for advance purchase of materials, financing, staggered payments, final payments, etc.
C. Provide the date on your contract on which the contractor agreed to begin the work. Then provide the date work actually began.
D. Provide the date on your contract that work was estimated to be substantially complete. Then provide the date on which the job was actually completed.
Section 6- Dispute Information
A. Nature of Dispute
Every nature of dispute listed represents a specific violation of Chapter 142A which, if substantiated, could be cause for deciding your claim.
Check as many as are applicable to your specific case, and make sure that you provide evidence supporting your assertion in your brief narrative summary or at the hearing.
Listed below are definitions of selected listed violations:
"poor or unworkmanlike manner" means that materials which are used and methods which are employed are of substandard, unreasonable, imprudent, or inadequate quality or are inconsistent with good construction practices; or that materials used and methods employed are wholly or partially inaccurate or unacceptable in final appearance or function; or that materials used and methods employed are unsafe or may result in an unsafe or nonfunctional final product.
"common laws or regulations" pertains to any case law or federal, state, county or municipal regulation or ordinance which exists where the property is located.
"misrepresentations" may mean that violations of the state's Consumer Protection Law (M.G.L. Chapter 93A) have occurred. You may want to seek legal advice from an attorney for more information.
B. Summary of Events
Using clear, simple language please describe relevant events which led you to bring this claim. Indicate each instance where the contractor's conduct or performance was not what you expected, providing details as to how you formed your expectations (for example, the terms of the written contract, the conversations you had, a common sense analysis of the situation), and describing the contractor's actual conduct or performance.
Section 7- Requested Relief
This section gives you the opportunity to state the result you would like from the arbitration hearing.
A. What relief can you request?
In arbitration, you can request monetary damages or you can request a specific work performance from the contractor, such as completing an unfinished job. Please indicate which of these options you seek.
You must include a total dollar amount of your claim, even if you are requesting work performance.
If you win the arbitration case, the arbitrator may require the contractor to complete, repair or replace the work.
The arbitrator may also award you a dollar amount for your damages.
The arbitrator cannot order the revocation of the contractor's registration; nor can the arbitrator order a criminal investigation of the contractor's conduct.
Contact Consumer Affairs for a list of agencies that can investigate the contractor's conduct. (Toll free: 888-283-3757)
B. Defective or Incomplete Work
List the contract work that requires completion as well as the work that must be repaired. For each item, you must indicate whether the item is defective or incomplete by circling the appropriate description. You must also list an estimated monetary value of the defective or incomplete work.
Formal, written estimates for the cost to complete and repair this work are helpful but not required. You, however, will need to provide some form of justification for the amount you seek. After your application has been accepted, you will have an opportunity to submit these documents.
C. Additional Expenses or Damages
In this section, you may list additional expenses you are claiming. These expenses may include such items as your arbitration fee or consequential damages (e.g., additional home heating costs due to an exposed roof).
D. Value of Work and Materials
Obtain an estimate of the value of the work properly done and materials provided by the contractor.
Usually, but not always, even substandard work has some value. For example, demolition of existing structures has value, as does materials provided by a contractor who has abandoned the job. You may be able to obtain this estimate from a contractor who will finish or correct the job.
E. Payments Made
Detail the amounts you have paid under the terms of the contract. Indicate the purpose for which they were made (e.g. materials, 2nd installment).
Section 8- Agreement Signature
This section contains your statement, signed under pains and penalties of perjury, that all information contained in the application is true to the best of your knowledge, and that you have read and understand the filing requirements and the required filing fees.