Do I need to register? G.L. c. 142A, § 1
You must register if you are an individual, proprietorship, partnership or corporation that solicits, bids on, or performs residential contracting on an already existing one-to-four unit, owner-occupied, residential building, as a contractor or subcontractor, unless meet one of the exemptions listed here:
Exemptions: G.L. c. 142A, § 14
- the Commonwealth or any of its political subdivisions;
- any school, public or private, offering as part of a vocational education program courses and training in any aspect of home construction or home improvements;
- electricians, plumbers, architects or any other persons who are required by law to attain standards of competency or experience (take a test, and/or have experience) in order to obtain that license -- and who are working exclusively within the scope of that (active) license. This exception does NOT apply to Construction Supervisor Licensees, who must also obtain a Home Improvement Contractor registration in order to perform residential contracting work;
- persons dealing in the sale of goods or materials who neither arrange to perform, nor perform directly or indirectly any work or labor in connection with the installation of or application of the goods or materials;
- any owner personally doing residential contracting work on his own home;
- any individual who performs construction related labor or services for a home improvement contractor or subcontractor, for wages or salary and who does not act in the capacity of a home improvement contractor or subcontractor;
- any contractor or subcontractor who works on one residential contracting project or undertaking, by one or more contracts, where the total price to the owner is less than $500, provided, however, that the contract is not in an amount less than $500 for the purpose of evading c. 142A;
- any person who engages in the business of a home improvement contractor or subcontractor won other than a full-time basis, and who has earned in gross revenues less than $5,000 in the previous 12 months;
- any person acting as a contractor or subcontractor who is enrolled as a full-time student in a secondary school or college with degree granting authority from the government of the state in which the school is located, enrolled for the preceding and next academic term in the same or equivalent school, and provided that at least 2/3 of whose employees are also so enrolled, and whose gross revenues are, or are anticipated to be, less than $5000 from residential contracting work;
- persons who install any or all of the following: central heating, A/C systems, energy conservation devices, or provide conservation services on behalf of a public utility under a program approved by the commonwealth;
- any contractor or subcontractor who works exclusively in the following home improvement areas: landscaping; interior painting or wall covering; finished floor covering including but not limited to carpeting, vinyl, tile, non-structural hardwood; fencing or freestanding masonry walls; above-ground swimming pools; shutter or awning installation; ground level patios, or asphalt driveway installation and maintenance.
Registration must be renewed every TWO years. You can find the application form online at: www.mass.gov/consumer, or you may request one by contacting the Office of Consumer Affairs, 10 Park Plaza, Suite 5170, Boston, MA 02116, (617) 973-8700.
What work is covered?
Residential contracting is defined as "the reconstruction, alteration, renovations, repair, modernization, conversion, improvement, removal, demolition or construction of an addition to any pre-existing owner-occupied building containing at least one, but not more than four, dwelling units designed to be used as a residence or dwelling unit, or to structures which are adjacent to such residence or building." So any work you do involving this description requires that you have a Home Improvement Contractor registration, unless the work or your status as described in the exemptions allows you not to be registered. G.L. c. 142A, § 1
So I register and pay the required fees, and get a registration. What happens then?
- If you are advertising your services, you need to put your registration number on all of the advertisements-including advertising by way of signs or lettering your car or truck or signs placed on a customer's property, and advertisements placed in newspapers, telephone directories, magazines and web sites. G.L. c. 142A, § 13(c)
- You must also put your registration number on all building permits and contracts for home improvement contracting. G.L. c. 142A, § 13(c).
- If you enter into agreements with owners for work costing more than $1,000, you need to provide the owner with a written contract. G.L. c. 142A, § 2; sample contract available on our web site at: http://www.mass.gov/Eoca/docs/sampcont.pdf
The contract must include, at a minimum:
- The complete agreement between you and the owner and a clear description of any other documents that form a part of the agreement;
- The full names, social security numbers, addresses, (NOT a post office box), and registration number of the contractor (the contractor is the company or individual or proprietorship or partnership who is agreeing to the work, not necessarily an individual's name), and the names of the salesperson, if there was one, who solicited or negotiated the contract and the date when the contract was signed by the parties;
- The date on which the work under the contract is scheduled to begin, and the date on which the work is scheduled to be substantially completed;
- A detailed description of the work to be done, and the materials to be used, in the performance of the contract;
- The total amount agreed to be paid for the work to be performed under the contract;
- A time schedule of payments to be made under the contract, stated in dollars, including all finance charges, if any. If you require advance deposits, they must be listed in the contract, and may not exceed either 1/3 of the total contract price, OR the actual cost of any special order or custom made materials or equipment which must be ordered in advance of the beginning of work in order to ensure that the project will proceed on schedule. Be aware: it is unlawful to demand final payment until the contract is completed to the satisfaction of the parties to the contract.
- All the parties to the contract must sign the contract. The contract must also be dated. It is also a good idea to date the signatures.
- You must place a clear and conspicuous notice on the contract:
that all contractors and subcontractors must be registered by the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation ("OCABR"), and that any inquiries about a contractor or subcontractor relating to a registration should be directed to OCABR;
- of the registration number of the contractor or subcontractor;
- of an owner's three-day cancellation rights under Massachusetts law;
- of all warranties and of the owner's rights under G.L. c. 142A;
- of any lien on or security interest on the residence as a consequence of the contract; and
- in ten point bold type or larger, directly above the space provided for signature, the words "Do not sign this contract if there are any blank spaces."
In addition, in any contract entered into between a contractor and a homeowner, the contractor must inform the homeowner: (1) of any and all necessary permits; (ii) that it shall be the obligation of the contractor to obtain such permits; and (iii) that homeowners who secure their own permits will be excluded from the guaranty fund provisions of the Home Improvement Contractor law.
You may also write on the contract any other matters on which you and the owner lawfully agree, but this cannot include a waiver of any rights provided to the owner by the Home Improvement Contractor law or other state or federal laws.
No contract may include an "acceleration clause," where the contractor can demand full payment of amounts not yet due. A contract may provide, if the contractor deems himself insecure, that as a condition of continuing work the balance of funds due under the contract, which are in the possession of the owner, shall be placed in a joint escrow account requiring the signature of the owner and the contractor for withdrawal.
The contract may also provide that the contractor may initiate alternative dispute resolution by any private arbitration services approved by the Director of the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation. You must use this language: The contractor and the homeowner hereby mutually agree in advance that in the event that the contractor has a dispute concerning this contract, the contractor may submit such dispute to a private arbitration service which has been approved by the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation and the consumer shall be required to submit to such arbitration as provided in MGL c 142A. If you include this provision, each party to the contract must separately sign and date this section. (Consumers are automatically entitled under the law to seek arbitration through the program at the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation-this provision is for contractors who desire to use this process.)