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Unfair Trade Practices Consumer Protection Law Can Be a Game Changer.

Posted By Cliff Tuttle | February 16, 2018

No. 1,420

Image:homerenovationwi.com
An estimate form, like the one pictured above, will rarely fulfill the requirements of the HICPA statute.

Cases by consumers against home remodeling contractors and other service providers often don’t involve a lot of money.  At first blush, it might not seem worthwhile to hire a lawyer.

But consider this:  there are a group of consumer statutes in Pennsylvania that provide for enhanced damages. One such statute is the Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act — HICPA.  This statute requires home improvement contractors to register with the Attorney General’s Office and to utilize written contracts with a list of mandatory provisions.  These include establishing a definite start date and completion date, listing information about subcontractors, limiting the amount of down payments and numerous other provisions.  Oddly, eight years after enactment, many small home improvement contractors are unaware or only vaguely aware of what they are required to do under this law.

Many home improvement contractors still give hand written estimates on forms that make less-than-readable copies.  That is satisfactory for a preliminary work-up, but rarely fulfills the numerous requirements of a contract under HICPA.

This and several other consumer statutes are tied to the Unfair Trade Practices Consumer Protection Act (UTPCPL) which provides for the potential of treble damages and attorneys fees, as well as court costs.  Such an award is not automatic, but must be awarded by the judge.  Moreover, a smaller case that starts before a Magistrate or Arbitration Panel will almost certainly have to be appealed to a Judge to obtain an award treble damages and attorney’s fees.

However, the prospect of treble damages and attorney’s fees eventually being awarded by a judge is a great incentive for the defendant to settle the case before it gets to that point.

It is a good idea to consult a lawyer about the applicability of such a consumer protection statute to your case.  There are some complexities that may need to be addressed and the defendant may have certain defenses that can turn the case around. Using such a provision effectively requires knowledge and experience.

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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