Owners of Condominiums Do Not Have Same Protections as Single Family Owners in Construction
If you are a homeowner in Massachusetts, and you want to undertake a renovation, you should make sure that the contractor you hire has both a construction supervisor license, and a registration under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 142A. However, the statute has a gap that leaves certain homeowners unprotected. The statute applies only to owners in a 1-4 unit condominium complex. If you own a condominium in a complex that has 20 units, Chapter 142A does not apply to you.
You may wonder why it matters. It matters because Chapter 142A sets out various requirements for home improvement contractors, the violation of which constitutes an automatic unfair or deceptive act or practice under Massachusetts’ consumer protection statute, Chapter 93A. When a consumer successfully demonstrates that a business violated the consumer protection statute, the business has to pay the consumer’s reasonable attorney’s fees. A condominium owner whose renovations is not covered by Chapter 142A, can still make a claim under the consumer protection statute, but it is more difficult to prove your claim.
For example, it is a violation of Chapter 142A to fail to comply with the building code. That violation, in turn, is a violation of the consumer protection statute. When Chapter 142A does not apply, then a homeowner must show: a.) there was a code violation; b.) the violation of that building code was unfair or deceptive; and c.) that the violation occurred in trade or commerce. The Supreme Judicial Court has held that determining a code violation to be a violation of the consumer protection act is rare.
Unfortunately, unless and until the Legislature changes the law, owners of condominiums where the condominium has 5 or more units will not have access to these increased protections. This is all the more reason to vet your contractor carefully before you hire them to do work on your condominium.