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Hiccoughing on HICPA — the statute a contractor can ignore and collect anyway

Posted By Cliff Tuttle | April 10, 2016

No. 1,256

 HOME IMPROVEMENT CONSUMER PROTECTION ACT,                                    73 P.S. § 517.1, et seq.

MAUREEN DURST AND SCOTT DURST v. MILROY GENERAL CONTRACTORS, INC . 52 A.3d 357 (2012)

SHAFER ELECTRIC & CONSTRUCTION v. RAYMOND MANTIA AND DONNA MANTIA, 67 A.3d 2013 (2013) 

Summary: Although the Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act (HICPA) requires a home improvement contractor to utilize a written contract that complies with the requirements of the Act, the Superior Court has held that the non-compliant contractor can still collects fees on a quantum merit cause of action.

"There's got to be an extra here someplace." Image: house contractor.link

“There’s got to be an extra here someplace.”
Image: house contractor.link

Under HICPA, any home improvement contract for more than $500.00 must be in writing and comply with the requirements set forth in the Act.These include, inter alia, a description of the work and materials, as well as specifications that cannot be changed except by written change order.  A starting date and completion date should be stated.

There must be an initial estimate of the dollar value of the services to be provided in a time and materials contract, which may not be increased more than 10% without a written change order. There are a number of other requirements.

However, the Superior Court has held in a series of cases (links above) that a contractor who doesn’t prepare a written contract can nevertheless collect the fair value of the work performed under the doctrine of quantum meruit.

This is true even if there is a written contract but it doesn’t comply with the statute.

It might seem that the effect of such a ruling would be to make the statute a nullity.  Not exactly.  The statute contains criminal provisions, including insurance requirements.  Moreover, it is usually more difficult to prove the fair value of goods and services than to sue under a contract where the price and terms are stated.  The homeowner can call an expert witness who testifies that the fair value of the work is less than the contractor believes and even the less than the cost. And, of course, the defense that the work was unsatisfactory is always available.  It is far better and easier to have a compliant contract.

CLT

Welcome

CLIFF TUTTLE has been a Pennsylvania lawyer for over 45 years and (inter alia) is a real estate litigator and legal writer. The posts in this blog are intended to provide general information about legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus. However, this information does not constitute legal advice and there is no lawyer-client relationship created when you read this blog. You are encouraged to leave comments but be aware that posted comments can be read by others. If you wish to contact me in privacy, please use the Contact Form located immediately below this message. I will reply promptly and in strict confidence.

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