In Part I of this series, I gave homeowners three tips for avoiding circumstances that will disqualify them from the Guaranty Fund. In today’s post, I give three more tips.
To be eligible for the Guaranty Fund, you must submit your written Guaranty Fund Application within six months of receiving your court judgment or arbitration award. The Home Improvement Contractor Law sets this six-month deadline and, accordingly, the Office of Consumer Affairs enforces it strictly. Without exception, homeowners who apply late are automatically disqualified from the Guaranty Fund. Often homeowners who apply late explain that they did not exhaust their collection efforts within the six-month time period, but homeowners do not need to exhaust their collection efforts before applying to the Guaranty Fund. Exhaustion of collection efforts is only a prerequisite to receiving a payment from the Guaranty Fund.
To be eligible for the Guaranty Fund, your contractor must issue you a written contract and that contract must list a total price for the job. Homeowners who do not have a written contract with their contractors will be summarily disqualified from accessing the Guaranty Fund. Home improvement contractors are required by law to draft a written contract for any home improvement project exceeding $1,000. The contractor is also obligated under the law to give the homeowner a copy of the contract after it is signed. The contract is required to contain, among other terms, a total price. Contractors sometimes insist on working on a “time-and-materials basis,” which is their hourly rate plus the cost of materials, without giving the homeowner a total price for the project. Not only will this billing practice disqualify homeowners from the Guaranty Fund, but it can sometimes leave homeowners with unexpectedly large bills if the project runs longer than originally anticipated.
To be eligible for the Guaranty Fund, you must not pull your own building permit. Contractors, especially those who do not have their Construction Supervisor Licenses, will sometimes invite homeowners to apply for their own building permits. By obtaining your own building permit, you declare that you are responsible for the project – not your contractor. Every town’s building permit application notifies homeowners that applying for their own permits will disqualify them from accessing the Guaranty Fund. For example, look at the permit applications for Boston, Cambridge, or the Standard Massachusetts Permit Application.
How to Combat Illegal Robocalls posted on Jul 25
Robocalls have become an all-too-common nuisance for consumers. Robocalls are unsolicited, pre-recorded phone calls, often scams, which are made to consumers without their permission, as opposed to calls solicited by the consumer, such as those from pharmacies and childrens’ schools. Robocalls are illegal in Massachusetts under M.G.L. c. 159C. While consumers can, and should, sign-up -for both the state and national Do-Not-Call lists, unfortunately this does not always stop many unscrupulous solicitors and scammers from making these calls.
Summary of the 2015 Consumer Federation of America Annual Consumer Complaint Survey posted on Jul 22
The Consumer Federation of America and the North American Consumer Protection Investigators recently released the results of the 2015 Consumer Complaint Survey. This report is based on consumer information, complaints, and suggestions for increased consumer protections from 33 consumer agencies in 21 states.
Do-Not-Call Consumer & Solicitor Responsibilities posted on Jul 20
The Massachusetts Do-Not-Call Registry allows consumers to stop receiving certain telephone solicitations simply by signing-up and providing their telephone number. Established in 2003, the law requires telephone solicitors, list-brokers, and telemarketers to register with the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation, subscribe to the Do-Not-Call Registry, and remove registered telephone numbers of consumers from their call lists.