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Home Improvement Disputes

Updated: Jun 1, 2020

Why and when you need a contract for your home improvement.

I regularly represent both consumers and construction professionals in general business and home improvement litigation matters.

Often times, initial disputes between a consumer and contractor pertain to a quality of workmanship issue; however, such disputes can quickly evolve into a statutory compliance matter for a contractor.

In such circumstances, the consumer enjoys many statutory protections and the contractor may have significant exposure/liability.

There are a number of statutes which apply to home improvements under Indiana law; however, this article provides a high-level overview of one of the principal statutes that governs home improvements, the Home Improvement Contract Act (“HICA”) (codified at: I.C. § 24-5-11 et seq.).

The HICA governs any home improvement (defined as any alteration, repair, replacement, reconstruction, or other modification of residential real property[1]) that has a price exceeding $150.00. Accordingly, the HICA’s reach extends to the vast majority of home improvement work between a consumer and contractor. All home improvements governed by the HICA are required to be distilled in a written contract. The HICA sets forth a number of actions the contractor must make regarding executing the contract as well as a number of required contractual provisions.

Prior to beginning work on a consumer’s residential structure, the HICA requires a contractor to obtain all necessary licensing and permitting. Additionally, a contractor must sign the contract prior to providing it to the consumer and provide an executed copy of the contract to the consumer after the consumer signs it.

In addition to the foregoing acts, a contractor must provide the consumer with a written contract which contains at least the following provisions:

  • The name and address of the property being improved;

  • The name, address, email and phone number of the contractor;

  • The name, telephone number, and email address for each owner, officer, employee, or agent to whom consumer problems and inquiries can be directed.

  • The date the contract was provided to the consumer and any limitation on when the consumer can accept the contract;

  • A “reasonably detailed” description of the improvements;

  • The approximate starting and finishing time of the work;

  • A statement of contingencies that would materially change the completion date;

  • A statement of whether any third-party will furnish materials or labor (notice of use of sub-contractors);

  • The price of the improvements;

  • Signature lines for contractor and consumer with legibly printed names of both below or next to signature line;

  • The contract must be in a form that is easy for a consumer to read and understand;

  • The contract must include a specifically worded and formatted (provided by statute) Notice of Consumer Rights and Cancellation along with a separate detachable Notice of Cancellation; and

  • If disclaiming implied warranties, a specifically worded notice under the Indiana Home Improvement Statutory Warranty Act (codified at I.C. § 32-27-1-13, though not discussed in this Article).

If insurance proceeds are used in a whole or part for a home improvement, then the contractor must comply with a host of other requirements, such as: not submitting any claims directly to the consumer’s insurer and not offering any offer or promise to pay any rebate or part of an insurance deductible to get a consumer to sign the contract.

Each instance of non-compliance with each and every requirement of the HICA automatically constitutes a deceptive act under the Deceptive Consumer’s Sales Act (“DCSA”) (codified at: I.C. § 24-5-0.5). Each deceptive act is actionable by both the Indiana State Attorney General and the harmed consumer under the DCSA.