STEP 1: Try to resolve the issue with the contractor directly. If that effort is unsuccessful, you may:
STEP 2: Consider filing a complaint with the Local Consumer Program ("LCP") that serves residents of your city or town. The LCPs work in cooperation with the Attorney General's office. You can find out the name, address, and telephone number of your LCP by calling the Attorney General's office at 617-727-8400 or by visiting http://www.mass.gov/Cago/docs/Consumer/lcp_index_fy10.pdf. In most cases, the LCP will attempt to mediate your complaint. This means they will contact both you and the contractor to confirm both sides of the story, and try to work out a resolution through an informal process of telephone calls and letter writing. In some cases, there may also be a Face to Face Mediation Program ("FTFMP") that works in cooperation with the Attorney General's office available to you-you can also check for that option with the Attorney General's office. The FTFMPs bring the parties together in person to discuss their differences. Please note: all mediation through these programs is voluntary. If the contractor refuses to mediate, or if you are not satisfied with the results of mediation, please read about possible next steps below.
⇒At this point, you have several other options, if you are seeking to recover money from the contractor:
OPTION A: You can consider filing suit against the contractor in small claims court yourself if the amount you are seeking is $7,000 or less. The filing fee is typically less than $50. For additional information, call our office at 617-973-8787 and ask for a copy of the booklet "Small Claims Courts".
OPTION B: If you used a "registered" contractor, one who has been granted a Home Improvement Contractor registration by the state, you may be entitled to request an arbitration hearing through our office. All registered contractors must, by law, agree to arbitrate. In arbitration, a neutral third party, the arbitrator, listens to both sides of the dispute, and decides whether to order the contractor to provide a refund for poor or unfinished work, or, in some cases, to perform repairs on work done incorrectly. Not all types of home improvements are covered by this option. To be eligible for arbitration you must reside in an owner-occupied 1-4 family building and your contract must meet a minimum dollar amount; other requirements also apply. There is an arbitration fee of $150 to $850, depending on the amount of money you are seeking. IMPORTANT: You must file your request for arbitration no later than two years after the signing date of your written contract. To begin this process, check if your contractor is registered by calling us at 617-973-8787 or checking online at www.mass.gov/consumer. Complete information about the program is available online or by calling the number above.
OPTION C: You can contact a lawyer who can advise you about feasibility of filing suit against the contractor with lawyer assistance.
OPTION D : If you are the prevailing party in your arbitration hearing or court action, but have been unable to recover money from the contractor awarded to you by the decision , our office also administers a "Home Improvement Contractor Guaranty Fund." The purpose of the fund is to provide restitution to consumers who have won arbitration awards or court judgments against their contractors, but have been unable to collect on those awards. The fund provides a maximum payment of $10,000 to eligible consumers, but you must file your request for access to the fund within six months of receiving your award or judgment, and you must also fulfill the requirements listed on the application, including demonstrating reasonable efforts to collect on the award/judgment. Complete information about this program and the application are available online at www.mass.gov/consumer or by contacting us at the address above, or by calling 617-973-8787.
⇒If you are seeking sanctions against the contractor:
STEP 3: If you believe that a contractor has violated any portion of G.L. c. 142A, the Home Improvement Contractor law, you should also consider filing a written complaint with our office at the address above, for possible action against the contractor's registration. Please note that this procedure does NOT involve mediation of individual consumer complaints, but instead entails enforcement hearings on violations of the home improvement contractor registration law. For this process, a complaint must be filed within three years of the date the contract for home improvements was signed. After a hearing on the complaint, at which your attendance may be required, the Office can fine a contractor up to $2,000 for each violation and/or suspend or revoke the contractor's registration. No money is awarded to consumers who file complaints through this program, even if fines are assessed. This procedure is solely for enforcement action against a contractor's registration. Visit our web site at www.mass.gov/consumer for more information about filing a complaint and to download and print the complaint form.