Chapter 142A — the Home Improvement Contractor Act

Massachusetts requires contractors who perform home renovation work not only to have a Construction Supervisor License, but also require him or her to have a Home Improvement Contractor Registration under Chapter 142A. The Home Improvement Contractor registration is only required for contractors who do renovation work — additions, renovations, demolitions — changes to the existing structure. It does not apply to new construction work. If you knock down your home and build a whole new one, you do not get the benefit of Chapter 142A.

Why does this matter? Chapter 142A provides for a guaranty fund that reimburses homeowners up to $10,000 when they succeed on a claim against their contractor. Further, a violation of Chapter 142A is an automatic unfair or deceptive act or practice under our consumer protection statute, Chapter 93A.  If your construction work does not fall under Chapter 142A, you can still have a Chapter 93A claim, it is just not automatic.

And why does Chapter 93A matter? Chapter 93A is a fee shifting statute. In other words, a plaintiff successful under Chapter 93A is entitled to an award of attorney’s fees to be paid by the contractor. If the contractor’s unfair or deceptive acts or practices are knowing or willful, then the court can award double or treble damages.

For example, a contractor who violates the building code, while doing renovation work has violated Chapter 142A and therefore the consumer protection act. For new construction, this connection is not automatic.

If you run into a problem while you’re doing construction work, be certain to look at Chapter 142A and see if it applies to your construction work.