PA HICPA and What to Include in a Home Improvement Contract
When you’re thinking of having work done on your home, whether that’s a repair, renovation, or new construction, your most important decision is who will do the work. A reputable and skilled craftsman can make your dream come true. But poor craftsmanship or shifty business practices can make the whole experience a nightmare and could potentially damage your home or its value. So be very careful when choosing your contractor or signing a contract.
Finding a reputable general contractor
For projects that require multiple contractors – for instance, a bathroom remodel that will require plumbing, lighting, and renovation of flooring, walls, and fixtures – you should go with a reputable general contractor who has vetted the best and most reliable subcontractors and can coordinate their work so that the project runs smoothly and on time. Even if you just need a plumber for a leak, a general contractor is a good choice, for the same reasons. They’ve already done the hard work of finding reputable craftsmen.
PA HICPA and you
The Pennsylvania Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act (PA HICPA) was passed in 2008 to protect homeowners from hack jobs by fly-by-night “contractors” and unethical contracts. PA HICPA has specific requirements for both craftsmen and contractors that must be followed.
Contractors and craftsmen who work on residential homes are required to register with the Bureau of Consumer Protection in the Office of the Attorney General. In the registration they must include:
- All prior business names and addresses
- Names of all partners, managers, or officers in the contracting business
- A complete description of the nature of the contracting business
- Applicant’s certificate or license to practice the work, and whether it has ever been revoked or rescinded
- Statement of any conviction of criminal offense or suspension or barring from participating in any publicly funded program in the last 10 years
- Statement of whether the applicant has ever filed a petition for bankruptcy or has received a final civil judgment with regard to a home improvement transaction in the last 10 years
- Proof of sufficient liability insurance, in amounts specified in the law
This law has really helped consumers by ensuring that any person or company that engages in residential home improvement work has certification, insurance, and a clean history of working in the industry.
Finding a contractor
It is generally recommended to check with three contractors or renovation companies before settling on your contractor. Never accept a bid or estimate over the phone. Hang up and cross that person off your list. Any good renovation company or contractor will come to the house and look closely at the work that should be done.
A good contractor will ask you many detailed questions; for instance, if you’re having a bathroom redone, he should ask if you’ve ever had any water damage or leaks in or around the bathroom. He may ask if you know how old the plumbing is. He’ll check the electrical system. A thorough evaluation is a sign that the estimate will be thorough and the workmanship will be high quality.
In exchange, you should ask detailed questions about the company’s experience with the kind of work you want to have done. Get the contractor’s or company’s license information and HICPA registration information. You’ll also need to get several referrals of clients who have had similar work done on their homes.
Now follow up. Contact the bureau and check the contractor’s record. Contact the referrals to see how they really felt about the workmanship as well as how the contractor respected their home and cleaned up at the end of each work day. You don’t want someone who leaves a mess, goes into your refrigerator or sits in your living room at break time, or takes much longer than anticipated.
At M&K Renovations, we have many happy customers because we thoroughly vet every one of our subcontractors, doing this step for you. We are proud of our record and encourage you to contact our referrals and check the bureau for our excellent record of service in the Philadelphia region.
What needs to be in the contract
Once you’ve chosen a contractor, HICPA has specific requirements of what should be in a contract. We encourage you to check the website of the attorney general for all the details. Here are a few specifics:
- The contract must be in writing, signed by both parties, with complete contractor information (name, address, phone) including the PA home improvement contractor registration number
- Any subcontractors known at the time of the contract must also be listed with their complete information
- The toll-free number of the Home Improvement Contractor Consumer Helpline must be included
- It must include project details/scope of work: approximate start and completion dates, description of work, list of materials, detailed set of specifications
- It must include a statement that no work, materials, or specs will be changed or altered without a change order signed by both parties
- The total price of the contract must be listed, including any down payment in the total, which cannot exceed one-third of the total price. If the contract is for time and materials, there must be an estimated cost, a statement that the cost will not exceed 10% of the initial estimate, and a statement that the cost will not exceed the total potential cost (estimate + 10%) without a written change order signed by both partiesStatement of sufficient insurance, as required by the law
- A statement of the right of rescission within 3 business days, unless the work is a bona fide emergency (i.e. the pipes burst)
A number of things cannot be included in the contract. If they are included, the homeowner has the right to void the contract. Again, check with the bureau for the complete list, but several of these forbidden statements include:
- Hold harmless clause
- Waiver for the homeowner’s rights under the law
- Confession of judgment, which means the owner accepts liability or damages agreed upon in the contract
- Automatic renewal clause
- Clause in which the homeowner waives the right to assert any claim arising from the contract
At M&K, we follow the law. Our contracts are accurate and thorough and our work is done on time and on budget, because we ask the right questions, and because our subcontractors are the best in the area. As homeowners ourselves, we treat our clients as we would want to be treated. Call us today at (610) 353-2895 at our Main Line office to schedule your free home visit and consultation to discuss your project and get you started on fulfilling your dream. We service Philadelphia and surrounding areas.