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The wisest use of legal services is before the problem develops or getting involved as early as possible in a dispute situation.

We can help home improvement contractors with reviewing contractors’ proposals and contracts, making sure that they comply with the Massachusetts Home Improvement Contractors statutes and regulations. We find that many of the home improvement contracts we review - usually prepared by the home improvement contractor - do not comply with these requirements, often in significant ways. The statutes governing these contracts are quite comprehensive.

For example, did you know that all home improvement contracts over one thousand dollars have to be in writing? That the date on which the work under the contract is scheduled to begin and the date on which said work is scheduled to be substantially completed must be provided in the contract? That the contract must include a detailed description of the work to be done and the materials to be used in the performance of said contract? That the total amount agreed to be paid for the work to be performed under said contract has to be stated in the contract? That a time schedule of payments to be made under the contract must be provided in the contract? That the owner must be furnished with a copy of the contract signed by both the contractor and the owner? That no work shall begin prior to the signing of the contract and transmittal to the owner of a copy of such contract? That the homeowner has a three day right to cancellation?

We have seen many disputes arise with contracts that are lacking some of these provisions. For example, not putting in the start and end dates in the contract may needlessly expose the contractor to claims for delay. We have seen this issue several times arise with modular homes jobs where there was a delay at the factory. We had one situation arise where an owner claimed in court that the three day right of cancellation did not begin to run until after the owner was presented with a contract in compliance with these requirements - which had not happened yet, even for this completed job - and, therefore, the lawyer argued that the owner was entitled to ‘cancel’ the contract even after all of the physical work had been performed!

In addition, violations of the provisions of the home improvement contractor statutes may constitute an unfair or deceptive act under the provisions of chapter ninety-three A, exposing home improvement contractors to claims for double and triple damage and the payment of the homeowner’s attorney’s fees. Violations of these statutes may also expose the home improvement contractor to administrative sanctions. In addition, what we see frequently with issues with home improvement contracts that turn into disputes is that the scope of the work - and, the exclusions to the scope of work - are not sufficiently defined in the contract. Quite often, home improvement contractors hurt themselves by not making clear what is included in the contract price and what is not included in the contract price. Our experience has been that frequently issues that turn into disputes are caused by an insufficient description in the contract of the work to be performed. Similarly, home improvement contractors quite often damage their positions with change orders by inadequately describing the change or inadequately setting the cost for the change. Home improvement contractors can benefit from Mr. Sauer’s thirty-four years of experience with these issues. And, if desired, we can do this review of the proposal and of the contract for a flat fee. (No hourly billing!)

Please note that the home improvement contracts statutes provide for arbitration and mediation of disputes in certain circumstances. If you need an attorney to represent you at a mediation (or, for that matter, with arbitration or litigation), we have a lot of experience in doing so.

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