Homeowners:
  1. What is a Home Improvement Contractor (HIC)?
  2. Are there exemptions from registering as a Home Improvement Contractor?
  3. What is the difference between a HIC and a CSL?
  4. What is "residential contracting" for purposes of an HIC registration?
  5. Why should I hire a registered home improvement contractor?
  6. Where do I look up the contractor to assure they have a HIC and or CSL license and why?
  7. What information is available on the website?
  8. I have been on the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation's website to check whether a contractor is registered as a Home Improvement Contractor, but my search indicated that no record of the contractor could be found. He assures me that he is registered. Why am I unable to find him?
  9. Should I ask to see a registration and/or card prior to hiring a contractor?
  10. What if my Home Improvement Contractor does not have a Construction Supervisor's License and my project requires a CSL license?
  11. I have recently been informed that the contractor I intended to hire to perform work on my house is not registered with OCABR. What should I do?
  12. I am having my roof replaced or replacement windows or siding work done. Will I need both a registered Home Improvement Contractor and a Construction Supervisor's Licensee?
  13. If, I am building a new home (new construction), will I need a Home Improvement Registration contractor?
  14. Does my contractor need an HIC to install hardwood floors?
  15. Is my contractor required to obtain liability insurance?

MAKING APPLICATION FOR PERMITS

  1. What is a Building Permit?
  2. Are permit inspections and final inspections from the Local Building Departments required?
  3. Who is responsible for making application for the permit?
  4. My contractor told me I need to obtain the permits for my construction. May I obtain the relevant permits from my local building department, or is the contractor required to do that?

The Guaranty Fund

  1. What is the Guaranty Fund?
  2. Where do I apply for the Guaranty Fund?
  3. Who pays for this fund?
  4. What if I choose to do the work or hire an, unlicensed, unregistered persons?
  5. What if my registered Home Improvement Contractor does not have a Construction Supervisor's License, and the project requires a CSL holder, what do I do

MEDIATIONS

  1. Where do I go for mediations?

Court Action

  1. What happens if mediation does not work?

COMPLAINT PROCESS

  1. Something has gone wrong with my home improvement project (incomplete work, contract dispute, cost overruns, improper materials, etc). What recourse do I have against the contractor?
  2. How do I file a complaint against a registered Home Improvement Contractor ("HIC")?
  3. What if I do not include all necessary paperwork for my complaint?
  4. I filed a complaint a few months ago, but have not received any a hearing date yet. How do I determine if and when my complaint will be heard?
  5. What if I have a conflict and need to reschedule the hearing date?
  6. What occurs during the HIC hearing process?
  7. I hired a contractor to perform work on my home. The contractor began the work, but has since abandoned the job, leaving it unfinished. What should I do?
  8. An unregistered contractor recently performed work on my home that I am very unhappy with and I wish to file a complaint. What should I do?

Contractor's Information for applying for a Home Improvement Registration

  1. How do I become a registered as a Home Improvement Contractor?
  2. What are the monies needed to apply for my Home Improvement Registration?
  3. What documentation is required for HIC Registration?
  4. How long does it take to process an HIC registration?
  5. I have a Construction Supervisor's License; do I need a Home Improvement registration?
  6. Do you need a Construction Supervisor's License and a Home Improvement Registration to construct an addition to an existing home?
  7. How do I know I am following the right contracts with homeowners?
  8. What are considered to be violations of MGL, Chapter 142A and\or 780 CMR R6 (HIC Rules and Regulations)? PLEASE READ CAREFULLY TO MAKE SURE YOU ARE FOLLOWING THE LAW
  9. Can the contractor ask for more than a 1/3 for a down payment?

Complaint Process FAQ's for Contractors/Respondents

  1. I am a contractor and I recently received notification that a complaint has been filed against my HIC registration. What does this mean? What do I need to do?
  2. What do I need to do to reinstate my HIC registration following a decision that took action against it?
  3. I am listed as "Do Not Renew" status What does this mean?
  4. The information provided to OCABR at the time of application is outdated. What should I do?

Answers

Homeowners:

Q. What is Home Improvement Contractors (HIC)?

A Home Improvement Contractor ("HIC") is defined as any person who owns or operates a contracting business who, through himself or others, undertakes, purports to have the capacity to undertake, offers to undertake, or submits a bid for residential contracting work to an owner, as such work is defined in 780 CMR R6 and Massachusetts General Law chapter 142A (which are the rules and regulations pertaining to the program). All HICs must be registered with OCABR.

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Q. Are there exemptions from registering as a Home Improvement Contractor?

A Home Improvement Registration is governed under M.G.L. c. 142A, and allows contractors to sign contracts with homeowners for over $500.00, to perform work in their owner occupied home. *see MGL, Chapter 142A, § 2, Residential contracting agreements: requirement.

A. Yes. The list of exemptions is as follows:

List of Exemptions

R6.1.6 Persons Exempt From Registration or Renewal: Any person exempt from the registration requirement by 780 CMR R6.1.6 who does not voluntarily register is not subject to any of the provisions of 780 CMR R6 or G.L. c. 142A. Persons exempt from registration are:

1. the Commonwealth or its political subdivisions;

2. any school, public or private, offering as part of a vocational education program courses and training in any aspects of home construction or home improvements;

3. electricians, plumbers, architects or any other persons who are required by law to attain standards of competency or experience as a prerequisite to licensure for and engaging in such trade or profession and who are acting exclusively within the scope of the profession for which they are currently licensed pursuant to such law, construction supervisors excepted;

4. 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;

5. any owner personally doing residential contracting work on his/her own home;

6. 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;

7. any contractor or subcontractor who works on one residential contracting undertaking or project by one or more contracts where the aggregate contract price to the owner is less than $500; provided, however, that the contract is not in an amount of less than $500. for the purpose of evading 780 CMR R6 or M.G.L. c. 142A;

8. any person who engages in the business of a home improvement contractor or subcontractor on other than a full-time basis, and who has earned in gross revenues from residential contracting work, less than $5,000 in the previous 12-month period;

9. any person acting as a home improvement contractor or subcontractor who was 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, for the immediately preceding academic semester and is also enrolled as a full-time student for the next academic semester, in the same or a similar degree granting secondary school or college provided that at least of the number of employees of the contractor or subcontractor are similarly enrolled in secondary schools or colleges and that the home improvement contractor or subcontractor does not reasonably expect to earn or does not in fact earn, in gross revenues, more than $5,000 from residential contracting work;

10. persons who install any or all of the following:

· central heating,

· air-conditioning systems,

· energy-conservation devices, or

· provides conservation services conducted by or on behalf of a public utility under a program approved by the department of public utilities;

11. any contractor or subcontractor who works exclusively in any of 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; includes flagstone, concrete, block, and wood set directly onto the ground; excludes decks which are supported above ground.

· asphalt and driveway installation and maintenance.

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Q. What is the difference between a HIC and a CSL Contractor?

A CSL is required for any work that involves a building's structural elements and the holder had to have passed an examination which demonstrates knowledge of the building code. A holder of an HIC registration is not required to pass an examination. The holder is registered with the state and must pay a fee which is deposited in to the Guaranty Fund at the Office of Consumer Affairs. These serve as protections for consumers in the event of a dispute between a homeowner and an HIC.

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Q. What is "residential contracting" for purposes of an HIC registration?

For purposes of registration, residential contracting is defined as the reconstruction, alteration, renovation, repair, modernization, conversion, improvement, removal or demolition or the construction of an addition to any pre-existing, owner-occupied building containing at least one but not more than four dwelling units, which is used (or part of it is) or designed to be used as a residence or dwelling unit, or to structures which are adjacent to the residence or building, including but not necessarily limited to: garages, sheds, cabanas, pool houses and gazebos.

Please note that the registration pertains to home improvements to existing structures; program protection does not extend to new construction.

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Q. Why should I hire a registered home improvement contractor?

To protect you as the consumer! When contractors register with the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation, they must make a contribution to the Guaranty Fund. Consumers may be eligible for reimbursements through the fund should something go wrong during the construction process. Please see M.G.L, c. 142A, § 5.

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Q. Where do I look up the contractor to assure they have an HIC registration and why?

You may refer to our website www.mass.gov/oca to look-up a registration for a contractor. You should do this prior to hiring a contractor to perform the construction.

By checking database records, you can identify the proper (legally recognized) name of the contractor, and confirm whether the contractor is appropriately registered under the home improvement registration program, and/or properly licensed to perform the work. Presently, roofing, siding, demolition and window replacement contractors are only required to be registered as Home Improvement Contractors. However, beginning in July 2008, individuals engaged in these activities will be required to have both a home improvement registration and a construction supervisor license.

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Q. What information is available on the website?

The website will provide the status of the individual's license (i.e.; whether it is active, expired, suspended and/or revoked) as well list any complaints filed with OCABR.

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Q. I have been on the Office of Consumer Affairs' website to check whether a contractor is registered as a Home Improvement Contractor but my search indicated that no record of the contractor could be found. He assures me that he is registered. Why am I unable to find him?

There are a number of possible reasons you may not be able to find the contractor you are looking for:

  1. The contractor's Home Improvement registration has expired, and has failed to renew their registration/license.
  2. The contractor may have more than 1 complaint on file with OCABR which has not yet been adjudicated. If there is more than 1 complaint pending, OCABR schedules an expedited hearing on the HIC registration and the individual will not be listed on our website until the matters have been resolved. It is important to remember that in these instances, the contractor may have a valid registration or license and is merely awaiting the resolution of the complaint.
  3. The contractor's Home Improvement Registration has been suspended or revoked because of a Hearings Officer's decision, and ordered, due to a homeowner's complaint against the HIC/.

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Q. Should I ask to see a registration and/or card prior to hiring a contractor?

Yes. The Home Improvement registration card will have a six digit number, beginning with the number 1. (For example: 123456).

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Q. What if my Home Improvement; Contractor does not have a Construction Supervisor's License, and my project requires a CSL license?

A Home Improvement Contractor may enter in to contracts with homeowners, however if he/she does not hold a valid CSL, he/she must hire an active Construction Supervisor Licensee to supervise the project. It is the responsibility of both the Home Improvement Contractor and the Construction Supervisor's Licensee to obtain all building permits prior to beginning the project.

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Q. I have recently been informed that the contractor I intended to hire to perform work on my house is not registered with OCABR. What should I do?

The Home Improvement Contractor Law, Chapter 142A of the Massachusetts General Laws, requires any contractor performing work on an owner-occupied, single-family or owner-occupied, multi-family home (with a maximum of four units) to be registered with Office of Consumer Affairs. If you hire an unregistered contractor and a problem arises with the contractor's work, you are not afforded the remedies available under the HIC law nor are you able to collect monies through the Guaranty Fund administered by the Office of Consumer Affairs. You may however submit a complaint to the Office of Consumer Affairs, as an unregistered contractor, see website www.mass.gov/oca.

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Q. I am having my roof replaced or replacement windows or siding work done. Will I need both a registered Home Improvement Contractor and a Construction Supervisor's Licensee?

Beginning July 1, 2008, all individuals who perform roof replacement, siding, and window replacement will be required to hold both a Home Improvement Registration and a Construction Supervisor's License.

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Q. If I am building a new home (new construction), will I need a Home Improvement Contractor?

No. An HIC is not required for new construction. The Construction Supervisor Licensee however must apply for all required building permits and architect plans for review by the local inspector. When the local inspector is satisfied that the project meets the requirements of the State Building Code, the building department of your local city/town will issue your building permit. The permit must be placed on site.

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Q. Does my contractor need an HIC to install hardwood floors?

Contractors who are exclusively in the business of the installation of non-structural hardwood floors are not required to be registered. However, if a project requires the installation of a new subfloor material (which is the material beneath the finished hardwood surface - typically plywood) or the replacement or installation of other structural elements (such as floor joists), the contractor would need to be both licensed and registered.

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Q. Is my contractor required to obtain liability insurance?

Home Improvement Contractor's are not required by M.G.L c. 142A (the Home Improvement Contractor Law) to carry insurance. Therefore, the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation maintains no records of insurance coverage. To determine if the contractor you are considering carries insurance, ask the contractor to produce proof of insurance.

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MAKING APPLICATION FOR PERMITS

Q. What is a Building Permit?

Building Departments are required to receive building permit applications with accompanying construction documents for review prior to performing construction in order to assure that the project is completed in accordance with the building code and related standards and is safe to occupy upon completion. Upon satisfactory review, a building permit card is issued to the applicant. The permit card must be posted at the job site until completion.

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Q. Are permit inspections and final inspections from the Local Building Departments required?

Yes, after all necessary permits are acquired, the contractor is required under 780 CMR R6, to schedule inspections with the municipal inspector as the job progresses.

For example, if you were to construct a deck attached to your home, the contractor must call for inspections; at the placement of the footings, when the structural frame is completed and possibly at other points of construction as determined by the municipal inspector. Larger projects, such as the addition of a family room or bedroom, would require more points of inspection. Although inspection processes may vary slightly from town to town, typically inspections are required for the footings, foundation structural frame, insulation, exterior siding roofing, chimneys and fireplaces. Upon final inspection, a certification of occupancy may be issued.

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Q. Who is responsible for making application for the permit?

Application for a permit is required to be made by the owner or lessee or their agent of the building (e.g.; the HIC registrant ). If application is made other than by the owner, written authorization of the owner must accompany the application. Such written authorization shall be signed by the owner and shall include a statement of ownership and shall identify the owner's authorized agent, or shall grant permission to the lessee to apply for the permit. The full names and addresses of the owner, lessee, applicant and the responsible officers, if the owner or lessee is a corporate body, shall be stated in the application.

Please note: It is the responsibility of the registered HIC to obtain all permits necessary for work covered by the Home Improvement Contractor Registration Law, M.G.L. c. 142A . An owner who secures his or her own permits for such shall be excluded from the guaranty fund provisions as defined in M.G.L. c. 142A .

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Q. My contractor told me I need to obtain the permits for my construction. May I obtain the relevant permits from my local building department, or is the contractor required to do that?

While you may certainly obtain your own permits, be aware that if you do, you will fall into a homeowner exemption that will disqualify you from being eligible to receive recourse through M.G.L c. 142A, the HIC Law, or the statutorily authorized Guaranty Fund, should a problem arise. It is the responsibility of the registered HIC to obtain all permits necessary for work covered by the Home Improvement Contractor Registration Law, M.G.L. c. 142A. If the HIC you are contracting with refuses, you may wish to reconsider using that contractor's services.

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The Guaranty Fund

Q. What is the Guaranty Fund?

M.G.L, c. 142A, establishes a residential contractor's Guaranty Fund within the Office of Consumer Affairs & Business Regulation to compensate owners for actual losses incurred by them as a result of a registered contractor or sub-contractor conduct which has been found by a court of competent jurisdiction to be work performed in a poor or unworkmanlike manner or which is a common law violation of any statute or regulations designed for the protection of consumers. Please also, refer to M.G.L, c. 142A § 5 on applying for the fund and qualifications.

The Home Improvement Contractor Act establishes a Guaranty Fund to compensate consumers up to $10,000 for unpaid judgments, against only registered Home Improvement Contractors. The Guaranty Fund is supported by a one-time fee that contractors are required to pay at the time of registration. After a consumer is paid from the Guaranty Fund, the responsible registered contractor is obligated to reimburse the Fund with interest within 30 days. Failure to repay the Fund may result in fines, revocation of the contractor's registration, and, in extreme cases, referral for criminal prosecution.

In order to qualify for the HIC Guaranty Fund, you must file for arbitration within two years of the date on the contract. You must satisfy the requirements for arbitration (see "Arbitration" above"). You must have a legal judgment before you can take advantage of the Guaranty Fund. The arbitration decision will fulfill this requirement. In the alternative, you may seek a legal judgment through traditional legal action. In order to recover from the Guaranty Fund, the contractor or your agent must have obtained the necessary building permits. If you obtained the permits yourself, you will not qualify for recovery from the Fund.

For further information on filing for the Arbitration Program and the Guaranty Fund, please refer our website ( www.mass.gov/oca ) or call the Consumer Hotline at (617)-973-8787 or toll free (888)-283-3757.

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Q. Where do I apply for the Guaranty Fund?

For further information on filing for the Arbitration Program and the Guaranty Fund, please refer our website( www.mass.gov/oca ) or call the Consumer Hotline at (617)-973-8787 or toll free (888)-283-3757.

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Q. Who pays for this fund?

Under M.G.L, c. 142A, the contractor must pay into the fund for the benefit of assisting the consumer.

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Q. What if I choose to do the work or hire unlicensed, unregistered persons?

If you choose to perform building construction work on your own home, or if you choose to hire unlicensed, unregistered persons, you must secure your own building permit under what is called the homeowner exemption. In doing so, you assume all responsibility for the project (i.e. ensuring the end product conforms with all pertinent codes, laws and ordinances) and you forfeit any and all rights under the Home Improvement Registration program.

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Q. What if my registered Home Improvement Contractor does not have a Construction Supervisor's License, and the project requires a CSL holder, what do I do?

Most construction projects will require both a licensed and registered contractor. A contractor possessing only a home improvement registration may perform only small projects that would typically be considered ordinary repairs to a property (such as painting, wallpapering, repairing existing decking and similar jobs). Larger projects, such as building a deck or an addition to an existing home or any project that includes structural work (to an existing single to four family, owner occupied home) would require both a license and registration. However, the license and registration may not necessarily be possessed by the same person. AAA For example, a registered contractor could subcontract larger projects to another individual and\or company as long as that individual or company possesses both a license and registration to perform the work.

The important thing to remember is that most construction work performed on your single to four family, owner occupied home will require the services of a licensed and registered contractor and that the registered contractor is required to secure the permit for such work, clearly listing the subcontractor if he/she is to act a s the supervisor of construction (in possession of the construction supervisor license). Homeowners who secure permits for such work under the homeowner exemption clause may forfeit all protective rights identified by M.G.L, c. 142 A and 780 CMR R6 (The Rules and Regulations for Home Improvement Contractors).

Homeowners should make sure that the contractor and/or all subcontractors that will be employed are appropriately licensed and registered. The municipal building official will also ask to see both the license and registration of a contractor (or contractors) at the time of building permit application is filed.

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MEDIATIONS

Q. Where do I go for mediations?

The Attorney General's Office and your local consumer groups have well-trained and experienced mediators who may be able to help you and the contractor resolve disputes without any additional cost to you. For information and to see if you qualify for mediation, call the Attorney General's Consumer Complaint and Information Section at (617) 727-8400, or visit the Attorney General's website at www.mass.gov/ago

If you hired a registered home improvement contractor you may be able to submit your dispute to a neutral arbitrator through the State Arbitration Program. In this arbitration program, the homeowner and the contractor will present evidence and testimony to an impartial person, often referred to as a neutral or an arbitrator. The arbitrator will resolve the dispute by issuing a legally binding decision. By law, a registered Home Improvement Contractor automatically consents to arbitration by entering into contracts with homeowners for residential contracting on a 1-4 unit, owner occupied dwelling.

Your decision to seek arbitration through the Massachusetts Home Improvement Contractor Arbitration Program should be based on whether you qualify for arbitration, whether arbitration is an effective method of pursuing your claim, and whether you objectively have sufficient evidence to support your case. Review the questions listed under the COMPLAINT PROCESS on the following page in order to determine whether or not you qualify for arbitration:

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Court Action

Q. What happens if mediation does not work?

If the mediation is unsuccessful, you may pursue your claim through the court system. For claims under $7,000, you may file your claim in small claims court. The Office of Consumer Affairs publishes a Consumer's Guide to Small Claims Court which is available upon request. You should seek legal advice for all claims.

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COMPLAINT PROCESS

Q. Something has gone wrong with my home improvement project (incomplete work, contract dispute, cost overruns, improper materials, etc). What recourse do I have against the contractor?

In addition to Mediation (see above) you may also take part in an Arbitration Program and/or file a complaint with the Office of Consumer Affairs.

Arbitration:

Is there a written contract for the job?

Will this Request for Arbitration be filed within 2 years of the contract date?

Was the contractor registered with the state as a Home Improvement Contractor on the date the contract was signed?

Was the contract for improvements, repairs, renovations, alterations, or additions to a pre-existing, owner-occupied residence with no more than 4 units?

Is the home located in Massachusetts?

Is the property your primary residence?

If you answered "no" to any of these questions, then you do not meet the basic qualifications for the Home Improvement Contractor Arbitration Program. You may want to consult an attorney to explore other legal remedies for your claim.

Please note that if you obtained your own building permit you may be eligible for arbitration (provided you satisfy the qualifications above), but may not be eligible for payment from the Guaranty Fund. Even if you do qualify, the Home Improvement Contractor Arbitration Program may not be the most effective way for you to pursue your claim.

The Massachusetts Home Improvement Contractor Law (M.G.L, c. 142A)establishes two means by which you may recover your damages: arbitration or a traditional suit in court. You should carefully weigh the costs of pursuing your claim through arbitration versus the costs of pursuing a claim in court. For more information regarding arbitration, see our website: www.mass.gov/oca, or call (617) 973-8787.

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Q. How do I file a complaint against a registered Home Improvement Contractor ("HIC")?

To file a complaint against a registered Home Improvement Contractor, begin by downloading and completing the HIC Complaint Application Form, available on the Office of Consumer Affairs' website at www.mass.gov/oca. The Complaint Application Form should include supporting documentation, including photographs (limited to 5 photographs per complaint), building plans only (11x17), contracts and other documents. All documents including the application, photographs and support material must be burned onto a CD and submitted with the Complaint Application Form to:

Program Coordinator

Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation

HIC Program

10 Park Plaza, Suite 5170

Boston, MA 02116

Complaints are reviewed for violations of M.G.L, c. 142A (the Home Improvement Contractor Law) If violations are identified, the complaint is processed and placed in the queue to be scheduled for a hearing before a Hearings Officer. The complainant will receive a written acknowledgement of the complaint or a letter indicating that the complaint was incomplete and a request for the required missing documents. The contractor will receive written notification that a complaint has been filed along with a copy of the complaint and the supporting documentation. Likewise, the municipal building official in the city or town in which the work was performed will receive notification of the complaint. The Office of Consumer Affairs schedules complaints on an "as received" basis. Due to the backlog of pending matters, hearings are typically scheduled one year from the date of receipt.

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Q. What if I do not include all necessary paperwork for my complaint?

a. You must submit the following required documents on a CD along with a hard copy of the 3 page signed complaint form:

b. a signed complaint application

c. a copy of the building application (you will find at your local building dept)

d. a brief history in writing from the time of signing the agreement to the ending of the work perform.

e. Bank checks paid to your contractor

f. Photos (only up to 10)

Your complaint will not be processed if you fail to provide these documents in this format.

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Q. I filed a complaint a few months ago, but have not received any a hearing date yet. How do I determine if and when my complaint will be heard?

Due to the high volume of complaints received, the Office of Consumer Affairs generally schedules hearings one year out from the date the complaint was received. Typically, notification of the hearing date is mailed 3-4 months in advance of the hearing. Therefore, if you have not received a hearing date, it is because it has not been scheduled.

You may also check the status of your complaint on-line through the Office of Consumer Affairs website. Complaints with a status listed as "Pending" are in the process of a waiting for a hearing before a Hearing Officer. Complaints with a status listed as "Closed" have been heard or otherwise resolved. Complaints with a status listed as "Dismissed" have been dismissed by the Hearings Officer. You will be notified in writing once a date for the hearing is determined.

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Q. What if I have a conflict and need to reschedule the hearing date?

Due to the volume of complaints received by OCABR, the Hearings Officer will only reschedule a hearing in extenuating circumstances, and only after a written request is submitted. All requests for continuances must be made in writing and state the basis for the request and shall be copied to the opposing party. All requests should be sent to the attention of the Program Coordinator who will direct it to the appropriate hearing officer.

Program Coordinator
Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation
HIC Program
10 Park Plaza, Suite 5170
Boston, MA 02116

You will receive a written determination on the request.

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Q. What occurs during the HIC hearing process?

All HIC/CSL complaints filed with the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation are reviewed for jurisdiction and possible violations of M.G.L, c. 142A. If OCABR determines that it has no jurisdiction over the complaint, the complaint is dismissed and written notification is sent to the homeowner. Reasons for a dismissal may include a complaint filed against an unlicensed contractor or a complaint regarding a property that is not owner-occupied.

If potential violations are identified, the complainant/homeowner and respondent/contractor are notified that the complaint has been received. The parties are also notified that all correspondence received relative to the pending complaint must be forwarded to the Program Coordinator, to be assigned to the case for response. Ex parte communication (communication between the Hearings Officer and one party to a complaint) is strictly prohibited. Therefore, all inquiries relative to a pending case, including requests to continue or dismiss the case, shall be in writing, copied to the opposing party, and referred to the Program Coordinator to be assigned to the appropriate Hearing Officer for written response.

Once a hearing is scheduled, all parties shall be notified in writing. Due to the volume of complaints received, hearings are not immediately scheduled upon receipt of the complaint and, in general, may be scheduled approximately one year from the date the complaint is received. Parties are generally notified 2-4 months in advance of the hearing.

On the day of the hearing, both parties must attend the hearing. Parties may represent themselves or choose to be represented by an attorney. Both parties will be given the opportunity to give testimony on the facts, as included, in the complaint and answer questions posed by the Hearings Officer. These hearings will generally last no more than 2 hours, depending on the complexity of the case. The Hearings Officer will take all testimony into consideration, and will issue a written decision, following the hearing, which will include sanctions, if any. Generally, decisions are issued within 90 days of the hearing. The Hearings Officer will not issue a decision on the day of the hearing.

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Q. I hired a contractor to perform work on my home. The contractor began the work, but has since abandoned the job, leaving it unfinished. What should I do?

File a complaint using the HIC Complaint Application Form pdf format of HIC Complaint Form . Abandonment is a violation of M.G.L ,c.142A, the Home Improvement Contractor Law. OCABR further recommends that you contact a licensed attorney with further questions relative to the legal implications of hiring another contractor to complete the job.

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Q. An unregistered contractor recently performed work on my home that I am very unhappy with and I wish to file a complaint. What should I do?

Homeowners who use unregistered contractors are ineligible for the protections provided by the HIC Law to collect from the HIC Guaranty Fund. Homeowners seeking recourse against an unregistered contractor may do so through the courts by filing a civil complaint against the contractor or may file a complaint with the Attorney General's Office using the Attorney General's Consumer Complaint Form or call the the A.G.'s Consumer Hotline at (617) 727-8400 for additional information.

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Q. How do I become a registered as a Home Improvement Contractor?

Please refer to our website to obtain a HIC registration application, www.mass.gov/oca.

Basic Rules For Home Improvement Contractors: Registration (video)

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Q. What are the monies needed to apply for my Home Improvement Registration?

The HIC application fee is $100. Further, a contribution to the Guaranty Fund is also required based upon the size of your company as follows:

Zero to three (3) employees…………$100.00

Four (4) to ten (10) employees………$200.00

Eleven (11) to thirty (30) employees $300.00

More than thirty (30) employees……$500.00

Please make money order/bank checks only, no cash, payable to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and mail along with your HIC application. Please note: We do not have walk-service for HIC registrations. Your application will be processed, and if the proper papers are included, your HIC contractor registration will be mailed to the address given.

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Q. What documentation is required for HIC Registration?

You must submit documentation evidencing that your business is registered with the Secretary of State's Office or your local City Clerk's Office. Failure to submit this documentation will result in the denial of you registration.

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Q. How long does it take to process an HIC registration?

Providing you have provided all the proper papers and the appropriate fees, you should receive your HIC registration within 4 weeks.

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Q. I have a Construction Supervisor's License, do I need a Home Improvement registration?

Most construction projects will require both a licensed and registered contractor. A contractor possessing only a home improvement registration may perform only small projects that would typically be considered ordinary repairs to a property (such as painting, wallpapering, repairing existing decking and similar jobs). Larger projects, such as building a deck or an addition to an existing home or any project that includes structural work (to an existing single to four family, owner occupied home) would require both a license and registration. However, the license and registration may not necessarily be possessed by the same person. For example, a registered contractor could subcontract larger projects to another individual and\or company as long as that individual or company possesses both a license and registration to perform the work.

780 CMR R6 (HIC Rules and Regulations), Section R6.1.6 identifies those who are exempt from registration or renewal. If your business activity is not listed among the exemptions and you or your business is typically involved in performing improvements to single to four family, owner occupied homes, it is likely that you would need to possess a Home Improvement Contractor Registration.

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Q. What is a "new construction"?

For purposes of Home Improvement Contractor "HIC" Registration, a new construction project is defined as the construction of new home. New home construction is not covered by HIC program regulations. However, construction of an addition to an existing single to four family, owner occupied home is covered by program regulations.

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Q. Do you need a Construction Supervisor's License and a Home Improvement Registration to construct an addition to an existing home?

Yes. See, M.G.L., c. 142A, and 780 CMR R5.

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Q. How do I know I am following the right contracts with homeowners?

The Attorney General's Office offers a sample contract for a contractor to follow. Please refer to the Attorney General's Office's website to obtain a copy.

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Q. What are considered to be violations of M.G.L., c. 142A and\or 780 CMR R6 (HIC Rules and Regulations)?

PLEASE READ CAREFULLY TO MAKE SURE YOU ARE FOLLOWING THE LAW

A. The following list identifies violations of Chapter 142A, Section 17 and 780 CMR R6, the program regulations

1. Operating without a certificate if registration issued by the administrator;

2. Abandoning or failing to perform, without justification, any contractor or project engaged in or undertaken by a registered contractor or subcontractor, or deviating from or disregarding plans or specifications in any material respect without the consent of the owner;

3. Failing to credit to the owner any payment they have made to the contractor or his salesperson in connection with a residential contracting transaction;

4. Making any material misrepresentation in the procurement of a contract of making any false promise of a character likely to influence, persuade or induce the procurement of a contract;

5. Knowingly contracting beyond the scope of the registration as a contractor or subcontractor;

6. Acting directly, regardless of the receipt or the expectation of receipt of compensation or gain from the mortgage lender, in connection with a residential contracting transaction by preparing, offering, or negotiating or attempting to or agreeing to prepare, arrange, offer or negotiate a mortgage loan on behalf of a mortgage lender;

7. Acting as a mortgage broker or agent for any mortgage lender;

8. Publishing, directly or indirectly, any advertisement relating to home construction or home improvements which does not contain the contractor's or subcontractor's certificate of registration number or which does contain an assertion, representation, or statement of fact which is false, deceptive, or misleading;

9. Advertising in any manner that a registrant is registered under this chapter unless the advertisement includes an accurate reference to the contractor's or subcontractor's certificate of registration;

10. Violations of the building laws of the commonwealth or of any political subdivision thereof;

11. Misrepresenting a material fact by an applicant in obtaining a certificate of registration;

12. Failing to notify the administrator of any change of trade name or address as required by section thirteen;

13. Conducting a residential contracting business in any name other than the one in which contractor or subcontractor is registered;

14. Failing to pay for materials or services rendered in connection with his operating as a contractor or subcontractor where he has received sufficient funds as payment for the particular construction work, project or operation for which the services or materials were rendered or purchased;

15. Failing to comply with any order, demand or requirement lawfully made by the administrator or fund administrator under and within the authority of this chapter;

16. Demanding or receiving payment in violation of clause (6) of paragraph (a) of section two which states: "a time schedule of payments to be made under said contract and the amount of each payment stated in dollars, including all finance charges. Any deposit required under the contract to be paid in advance of the commencement of work under said contract shall not exceed the greater of one-third of the total contract price or the actual cost of any materials or equipment of a special order or custom made nature, which must be ordered in advance of the commencement of work, in order to assure that the project will proceed on schedule. No final payment shall be demanded until the contract is completed to the satisfaction of the parties thereto;

17. Violating any other provision of Chapter 142A .

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Q. Can the contractor ask for more than a 1/3 for a down payment?

Only when the homeowner has requested special project considerations that may require monies in excess of a one-third payment. The contract should identify the special conditions and that the owner agreed to the increased down payment and the amount of the down payment.

Basic Rules for Home Improvement Contractors: Contract Content & Payment Terms (Video)

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Q. I am a contractor and I recently received notification that a complaint has been filed against my HIC registration. What does this mean? What do I need to do?

The Office of Consumer Affairs notifies HIC registrants whenever a complaint is filed against them by a homeowner. Enclosed with the notification you should have received a copy of the HIC Complaint Application Form completed and signed by the homeowner, as well as a CD that contains files with the documentation that the homeowner is claiming supports the complaint. You have 30 days in which to respond to the complaint. You must respond in writing to OCABR.

Once you are notified of the complaint and the complaint has been reviewed by the HIC Program Coordinator or a Hearings Officer to confirm OCABR's jurisdiction, a hearing will be scheduled before a Hearings Officer. You will receive notification of the hearing date approximately 3-4 months in advance of the hearing. Due to the volume of complaints received by OCABR, the Hearings Officer will only reschedule a hearing in extenuating circumstances and only after a written request is submitted. From this point forward, any and all communication must be directed to the Program Coordinator and a copy of the communication must be forwarded to the homeowner making the complaint at the same time the communication is sent to the Hearings Officer. The homeowner owes you the same obligation in communication with OCABR.

The hearings generally last for 2 hours and are held in Boston. During the hearing, both the homeowner making the complaint and the contractor will be given an opportunity to present their arguments and answer questions posed by the Hearings Officer. You may, but are not required to, obtain an attorney to represent you during the hearing. Following the hearing, the Hearings Officer will make a determination of what, if any, violations occurred and what sanctions are appropriate. Possible sanctions may include a reprimand, suspension or revocation of your license or registration, fines, or any combination thereof. The Hearings Officer has up to 90 days to issue a decision. Contractors aggrieved by the decision may appeal the Hearings Officer's decision to the Superior Court.

Basic Rules for Home Improvement Contractors: Arbitration and Enforcement (Video)

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Q. What do I need to do to reinstate my HIC registration following a decision that took action against it?

If a registration is suspended by a Hearings Officer, it shall remain suspended for the term of suspension and until such time as the registrant formally requests in writing that it be reinstated. The registrant must also demonstrate that they have complied with all conditions imposed on them during the term of their suspension and that all fines assessed to the contractor have been paid in full.

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Q. I am listed as "Do Not Renew" status. What does this mean?

If a contractor has one or more pending complaints against his registration, he is placed in a " Do Not Renew " status and an expedited hearing is scheduled. Hearings are typically scheduled within 90 days of the Do Not Renew status. The registration will not be automatically renewed until the complaints have been resolved.

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Q. The information provided to the Office of Consumer Affairs at the time of application is outdated. What should I do?

It is the contractor's obligation to notify the Office of Consumer Affairs in writing of any changes to the information provided.

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