THE MASSACHUSETTS HOME IMPROVEMENT
...Did You Know?
By Atty. Michael Sams
The legislature enacted the Home Improvement
Contractor (“HIC”) statute, G.L. c. 142A, on July 1,
1992. At the time, there was a perception that too
many home improvement projects were ending in
disagreement as the result of confusion in what the
parties agreed to in their contract. Many contracts
were oral and did not clearly identify the work to
be completed, the price for the work, or payment
deadlines. In response, the HIC statute sets out rigid
guidelines for parties to follow when contracting
for home improvements with the intent being
to protect homeowners. In addition, the statute
created the Residential Contractor’s Guaranty Fund,
and provided for administrative and other penalties
for violation of the HIC statute.
The statutory requirements for HIC contracts are
important but often overlooked or misunderstood.
The following highlights the important points of
the HIC statute and the potential repercussions for
failing to comply with it. Not complying can create
G. L. c. 93A, the Consumer Protection Statute, and
provides homeowners leverage in avoiding payment
• The statute sets forth specific guidelines for
contracts between homeowners and contractors/
subcontractors who solicit, bid on, or perform
residential contracting on an existing one to fourunit
• Any contract for work costing more than $1,000
must be in writing.
• The contract must contain the registration
numbers of the contractor/subcontractor.
• The contract must provide a description of work
• The contract must provide the total amount to
be paid for the work and a payment time schedule.
• The contract must provide written notice that
the owner of the building has a right to cancel the
contract within three days of signing.
• The contract must provide express warranties
and the owner’s rights under G.L. c. 142A.
• The contract must contain the dates when work
will begin and end.
• Contractors are explicitly prohibited from the
following actions: advertising or operating without
a certificate of registration and registration number,
false advertising, conducting business under a
name other than one registered, making material
misrepresentations to procure a contract, knowingly
contracting beyond the scope of registration,
abandoning a project without justification, deviating
from plans or specification without the owner’s
consent, failing to properly credit payments to the
homeowner, and acting as a mortgage broker or
agent for a mortgage lender.
• A homeowner may seek relief in superior court,
district court, small claims court, or through a private
arbitration program created by the HIC statute.
• All registered contractors and subcontractors
who contract for residential improvements impliedly
consent to the arbitration provisions of §4 of the
• Although a homeowner can select either court
or arbitration as the forum to resolve a dispute, for
a contractor or subcontractor to initiate arbitration,
an alternative dispute resolution provision must
be included in the contract, separately signed and
dated by the parties.
• A claim for arbitration must be filed within two
years from the date of the contract.
• The HIC statute established a Residential
Contractor’s Guaranty Fund (the “Fund”) as a source