For Immediate Release - August 20, 2013

OCABR ANNOUNCES ENFORCEMENT ACTIONS AGAINST HOME IMPROVEMENT CONTRACTORS

BOSTON – The Patrick Administration’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation (OCABR) today announced disciplinary actions against the following individuals and businesses:

Richard Smith, Brockton (HIC Registration No. 168886): On June 14, OCABR issued a final hearing order, suspending Smith’s registration for three months and assessing him an administrative fine in the amount of $2,250.  The suspension and fine result from a determination that Smith failed to perform a homeowner’s project without justification; made a material misrepresentation in the procurement of a contract; contracted for electrical work beyond the scope of his registration; requested from the homeowner a deposit greater than one-third of the contract price; and failed to provide the homeowner with a written contract for residential contracting services exceeding $1,000.  Smith admitted at the hearing that although he knew time was of the essence, he solicited only two subcontractors to ensure timely completion and had no alternative plan but to perform all of the required work on his own when those subcontractors accepted jobs elsewhere.

Ambrosi Construction, LLC, West Newton (HIC Registration No. 160416): On July 2, OCABR issued a final hearing order assessing Ambrosi Construction, LLC an administrative fine of $300.  The fine resulted from a determination that the contractor materially deviated from project plans without having the homeowner’s consent to do so.  Owner Filippo Ambrosi admitted at the hearing that he installed a two-ply structural roof beam without waiting for the design architect to clarify an ambiguity in the project plans.  The installation resulted in the homeowner’s receipt of a violation notice from the local building department.

MasonWorks, LLC, Melrose (HIC Registration No. 147178): On July 8, OCABR issued a final hearing order assessing MasonWorks, LLC an administrative fine of $100. The fine resulted from a determination that the contractor impermissibly requested a final payment before all parties to the residential contract were satisfied.  The contractor was found to have submitted an invoice that itemized cost for work completed in addition to work expected to be completed in the weeks subsequent to the invoice date.   Evidence showed that the invoice was presented to the homeowners at least one month prior to the final inspection date while discussions relating to the contractor’s workmanship were ongoing.

Michael Miller, Upton (Unregistered): On July 19, OCABR issued a final hearing order assessing him an administrative fine of $3,000. The fine resulted from a determination that Miller operated as a home improvement contractor without a certificate of registration and executed a residential services contract that did not contain legally required terms.  Miller did not attend the hearing.  However, evidence showed that he accepted a $600 payment from a homeowner in exchange for a promise to install a metal roof and that he did not possess an HIC registration number at any relevant time.

This is the first announcement of disciplinary actions taken against home improvement contractors.  Homeowners often file complaints alleging violations of the law committed by home improvement contractors.  Hearings stem from those allegations, which, if proven, can result in monetary fines, reprimands, and the suspension or revocation of HIC registrations.  OCABR will continue to announce disciplinary actions against home improvement contractors in monthly press releases.

OCABR today also announced the results of a home improvement contractor sting held on June 12 in Central Massachusetts.  The Office partnered with the Eastern Massachusetts chapter of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry to launch the sting, which involved soliciting contractors who unlawfully advertised in local newspapers and Craigslist.

Undercover Consumer Affairs officials posing as homeowners invited the contractors to a residential home in Central Massachusetts to perform roofing, decking, and window replacement.  As the contractors inspected the exterior of the home, the officials asked the contractors if they possessed a Home Improvement Contractor Registration.

Of the three contractors who visited the home, two admitted they were not registered.  The third contractor was registered, though he used a business name in his advertisement that was different than his registered trade name, in violation of state law.  One of the unregistered contractors initially said that his application for his HIC registration was currently being processed by the state, but he later admitted he was not registered when the undercover officials revealed themselves.  None of the contractors had any previous disciplinary history.

OCABR gave the unregistered contractors applications to obtain an HIC registration and gave all three contractors brochures explaining the registration and advertising requirements under the state law.  OCABR will follow up with the contractors from the sting to monitor their future compliance and ensure they join the ranks of the over 25,000 home improvement contractors currently registered.  Violations of this type can subject contractors to fines and reprimands.

OCABR oversees the state’s Guaranty Fund, a program that compensates homeowners for financial losses incurred from using a registered home improvement contractor.  Since homeowner eligibility for the Guaranty Fund rests on the registration status of the contractor, homeowners should verify the registration status of every residential contractor they consider hiring on the OCABR’s Website.

In addition to verifying registration status, these tips are recommended for homeowners when hiring a home improvement contractor:

  • Don’t pay more than one-third of the contract price in advance.  Unless the project requires special-ordered or custom-made materials, the contractor can only demand 33% up front.
  • Insist on a written contract with detailed terms.  A contractor must offer his clients a written contract for any project costing more than $1,000 and the contract must contain a detailed description of the work, a payment schedule, and an estimated start and finish date.
  • Ask the contractor for three references.  Homeowners should call the references a contractor gives them, should ask the references if they were satisfied, and should request to inspect the work the contractor performed.

It is a violation of state law to operate as a home improvement contractor by performing work or advertising to perform work without first obtaining an HIC registration.  Home improvement contractors must list their registered business name and registration number in all of their advertisements, including newspapers ads, lawn signs, and Websites.

The Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation is committed to protecting consumers through consumer advocacy and education, and also works to ensure that the businesses its agencies regulate treat all Massachusetts consumers fairly. Follow the Office at its blog, on Facebook and Twitter, @Mass_Consumer.

 

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