Starting this month, Steven J. Zuilkowski will be writing blog posts here explaining various topics relating to the rights and legal obligations of home improvement contractors under General Laws chapter 142A, the Massachusetts Home Improvement Contractor Law.
This past November, I staffed the Office of Consumer Affairs’ booth at the Architecture Boston Expo (ABX), where we distributed brochures on the basic rules for home improvement contractors. The trade show was well attended by contractors and I answered many of their questions. As I helped each contractor, I handed them my business card and invited them to send me an e-mail if they had more questions. Sometimes this exchange was awkward because some contractors reflexively reached for their business cards, but then hesitated and decided not to give one to me. This can only mean one thing: after a quick refresher on the rules, they realized their business card did not contain their HIC registration numbers.
Under the law, every advertisement for residential contracting must contain the contractor’s HIC registration number. An advertisement is defined as “any commercial message in any newspaper, magazine, leaflet, flyer, catalog, display space in the telephone book, on radio, television, public address system, or made in person, by letter or other printed material, or any interior or exterior sign or display, including on a vehicle.” 201 CMR 18.01(2) Advertisement.
This list is extensive and includes “other printed material,” like business cards, and “exterior signs,” like store fronts and lawn signs. Many contractors interpret this rule to mean that they must discard all noncompliant preprinted materials to achieve compliance, but that is not necessarily the case. A contractor can satisfy his obligation under the law by conspicuously writing his HIC registration number on those materials. In the case of business cards and lawn signs, this can usually be accomplished with a permanent marker. Of course, when the stock of preprinted materials is exhausted, it would be wise to include the HIC registration number in the next printing.
The Office of Consumer Affairs does monitor the advertising practices of home improvement contractors. We recently scanned dozens of telephone books for the advertisements of residential contractors. Because education is our first priority in matters like these, we mailed letters to hundreds of contractors informing them their advertisements did not contain their HIC registration numbers. We explained the rule and identified what the penalties could be – fines and/or a reprimand or the suspension or revocation of their registrations.
Contractors are becoming increasingly aware of the advertising rules. I receive more business cards at home shows and trade shows now than I did a few years ago. That’s a good sign.
Steven J. Zuilkowski is a hearing officer for the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation. Steve conducts hearings to determine whether contractors have violated the Massachusetts Home Improvement Contractor Law. To have your questions relating to home improvement contracting answered by Steve in a blog post, write to him at email@example.com.
Survey Says: Lemon Law Compliance on the Rise posted on Dec 29
The Massachusetts Lemon Laws provide legal relief to consumers who are sold a new, used, or leased vehicle that has a significant defect to its safety or use. Under these laws, car dealerships are required to place a bright yellow Lemon Law sticker on each …Continue Reading Survey Says: Lemon Law Compliance on the Rise
Everything you wanted to know about gift returns but thought it would be rude to ask posted on Dec 22
Purchasing or receiving an unwanted gift can be one of the most frustrating – and uncomfortable – things that can go wrong over the holidays. For this reason, most people prefer the reassurance when they purchase an item that they can return it if it …Continue Reading Everything you wanted to know about gift returns but thought it would be rude to ask
All I Want for Christmas is Price Scanning Accuracy posted on Dec 19
The Massachusetts Item Pricing Law was written to ensure that food retailers remained consistent and accurate in how they charge consumers. Since its last update in 2013, the law has been extended to cover consumer-use price scanners and automated check out systems. The Division of …Continue Reading All I Want for Christmas is Price Scanning Accuracy