Pennsylvania Appellate Court Has Provided Some Clarity to the Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act
10/5/2012 | Construction Blog
On July 1, 2009, the Pennsylvania Home Improvement Consume Protection Act (HICPA), 73 P.S. §§ 517.1 et seq., became effective. HICPA is a consumer protection statute that regulates and governs home improvement contractors and their contracts with homeowners. HICPA provides, inter alia, that “[n]o home improvement contract shall be valid or enforceable against an owner unless it . . . [i]s in writing and legible.” 73 P.S. § 517.7(a)(1).
In the case of Durst v. Milroy General Contracting, Inc., the contractor performed work for the homeowner without a written contract after the effective date of HICPA, and because of a dispute that arose regarding the price and quality of the work, the homeowner refused to pay the contractor for the work performed. The contractor subsequently filed a complaint against the homeowner for breach of contract and quantum meruit, to which the homeowners took exception. The homeowner filed preliminary objections to complaint asserting that the contractor is precluded from any recovery due to its failure to enter into a written contract in compliance with HICPA. The trial court overruled the preliminary objections by the homeowner opining that the contractor is entitled to recover under the theory of quantum meruit, which is an equitable remedy to provide restitution to one who performed services and/or furnished goods to another that was unjustly enriched by those services or goods.
On appeal to the Pennsylvania Superior Court, the homeowner argued that HICPA not only precluded the contractor’s recovery of payment under a breach of contract theory, but also precluded the contractor from recovery under a quantum meruit theory. The Superior Court disagreed with the homeowner’s contention. The Superior Court mentioned that HICPA was silent as to what happens to a contractor’s claim for payment when there is no written contract between the parties, and found that there was no express provision in HICPA that would preclude a contractor’s recovery of payment under a quantum meruit theory where there is no written contract between the parties. The Superior Court further mentioned that to adopt the homeowner’s argument would lead to an absurd result as it would allow homeowners to avoid payment of unblemished professional work.
Although the issue in the case of Durst v. Milroy General Contracting, Inc.,focused squarely on where the parties did not have a written contract in the first instance, one can reasonably conclude that the Court would reach the same decision where the written contract was deemed invalid or enforceable due to the written contract failing to adhere to the requirements specified in section 7 of HICPA.