Home improvement contractors can get a bad rap. And just like lawyers, its mostly undeserved. Contractors are regulated by the state Department of Consumer Protection and governed by the Home Improvement Act, a law that can cause them all sorts of troubles if they don’t comply with it. In addition to requiring home improvement contractors to be registered with the State (you can verify a contractor’s registration here), the law tells them that their contracts need to have specific language, such as start and completion dates and a homeowner’s Notice of Cancellation Rights.
The start and completion dates do not have to be exact calendar days according to a recent ruling (read it here law junkies) by Connecticut’s second-highest court in favor of a home improvement contractor. If the dates can be “readily adduced” by looking at the entire contract, the contract is unlikely to violate the Home Improvement Act’s requirement that the contract contain start and completion dates. So, linking a start date, for example, to some other event such as 4 weeks from delivery of materials or from issuance of a building permit will be substantial compliance with the law.
This same case talked about the Notice of Cancellation Rights. The contractor used a standard form contract from the American Institute of Architects along with other schedules (don’t use “standard” forms!) that had a cancellation notice “buried” among all the other pages. You see Connecticut law requires the 3 day cancellation notice to be basically right next to where the homeowner signs the contract (by the way, the homeowner must sign it, don’t have a homeowner “call in” an order for a home improvement). The court again supported the contractor and said the contract gave the homeowners adequate notice of their cancellation rights.
Let me qualify this post: This case went to the appellate court after an arbitration hearing where the contractor won $46,448.19 in lost profits after being kicked off the project. So while the court’s decision is helpful to home improvement contractors, the court really was deciding whether the arbitrator’s decision violated public policy or manifestly disregarded the law (a/k/a “too wacky to be enforced”), not whether it would have decided the case the same way as the arbitrator. Courts very rarely reverse an arbitrator’s ruling for those reasons; or for any reason for that matter (go to this great blog if you want to read up on arbitration). If this case was a direct appeal from a court’s decision – the result might have been different.