1. Call the Contractor
Call the contractor and explain the problem and what you would like to resolve it. Keep a record of your conversations - who you spoke with and when, and the action promised.
2. Write a Complaint Letter to the Contractor
If contacting the contractor by telephone is unproductive, you should then write a letter. An effective complaint letter should be clear and concise, and include all the facts. Include copies - not originals - of documents regarding your complaint, such as sales receipts, repair orders, warranties, cancelled checks, contracts, and any correspondence with the contractor.
You may want to send a 30 Day Demand Letter. If your problem involves an unfair or deceptive practice, which is a violation of the Massachusetts Consumer Protection Act, the law requires you to send the merchant a demand letter 30 days before filing a claim in court. The merchant must make a good faith response within 30 days, or it could subject him/her to triple damages and attorney's fees. For instructions on writing a 30 Day Demand Letter, including a sample letter, see our 30 Day Demand Letter Page.
You may want to send any complaint letter by regular first class mail and by certified mail, return receipt requested. The extra money this costs pays for your proof that the company got your letter and who signed for it. Sending letters in both ways ensures that letter is received even if the recipient refuses or does not pick up the certified letter.
Keep a copy of all correspondence and enclosures for your own records so that you will have proof of all contact with the merchant.
3. Get a Third Party Involved
- File a complaint with the Board of Building Regulation and Standards. This Board regulates contractors and construction supervisors.
- Mediation: This allows both parties to reach a mutually agreeable resolution with the help of a facilitator. Mediation is voluntary, requiring both parties' consent. You may apply for mediation through your local consumer group, which is affiliated with the Attorney General's Office.
- Arbitration: You may be eligible for state-approved arbitration under the Home Improvement Arbitration Program. To qualify you must be able to prove that:
- there was a written contract for the job
- the contractor was registered at the time of the contract
- the work was done on a 1-4 family, owner-occupied, primary residence in Massachusetts.
If you obtained your own building permit, you may be eligible for arbitration (if other qualifications are satisfied), but you may not be eligible for payment from Guaranty Fund. If the contractor failed to include the permit notice in the contract and you meet other qualifications, you may have access to the Guaranty Fund.
A professional, neutral arbitrator hears the case with both parties present and makes a legally binding decision. Either party may appeal the decision in court within 21 days.
A contractor with a dispute against a homeowner may initiate an arbitration action only if both parties agree to it in the contract. However, a contractor may have a counterclaim settled by an arbitrator if the homeowner has initiated the arbitration action.
For more information on arbitration, including a link to our arbitration application, click here.
- Court Action: You may also pursue your claim through the court system. For claims under $2,000, small claims court is the least costly alternative. Consumer Affairs published a Consumer's Guide to Small Claims Court, available upon request. Larger claims may be more suitable to District or Superior Court. You should seek legal advice for all claims.
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