- Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation
The coldest months of the year are approaching, and homeowners across the Commonwealth are taking steps to winterize their properties. This season, the Farmer’s Almanac issued a “hot chocolate warning” for the Bay State in anticipation of colder than normal temperatures this winter. While some steps to prepare your home for cold weather can be done by homeowners, larger projects require professional assistance from a registered contractor.
The Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation (OCABR) oversees the state’s Home Improvement Contractor (HIC) program. This program requires all contractors, partnerships, and corporations that solicit, bid on, or perform residential contracting as a contractor or subcontractor on an existing one to four unit owner occupied residential property in Massachusetts must be registered as a home improvement contractor. Under the law, registered contractors must follow certain requirements regarding contracts, payments, advertising, and business practices.
In support of the HIC program requirements, and to help homeowners get ready for winter, OCABR gathered the below tips when hiring a home improvement contractor:
- Obtain estimates from at least three contractors. Ask for written, detailed estimates including project completion time, and material cost.
- Confirm references for each contractor. Ask contractors for a written list of three of their most recent projects. Contact the other homeowners to inquire about their satisfaction and the contractor’s work.
- Use OCABR’s HIC public lookup tool to verify the home improvement contractor you want to work with is registered. If the contractor or subcontractor is not registered, you will not be protected by the Home Improvement Contractor Law.
- Ask for a detailed written contract, outlining the breakdown of costs, project timeline, and payment schedule. State law requires that home improvement contracts over $1,000 be in writing.
- Avoid pulling permits for work being done by a hired professional. Contracts should be able to get required permits from local building departments with the proper registration and licenses. Pulling our own permit may limit any protections if something goes wrong.
Finally, do not sign a contractor you are not comfortable with, and be sure to review the contract resources provided by the Office of Consumer Affairs. For more information about the Home Improvement Contractor program in Massachusetts visit: www.mass.gov/hic, or call the Office’s consumer hotline at 617-973-8787, Monday through Friday between 9am and 4:30pm.