Attorney General’s office announces rules for home improvement contractors following hundreds of complaints

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The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Unit issued final regulations that establish clear rules for the home improvement services industry in Delaware. 

The regulations became effective this month.

The regulations come after hundreds of complaints received by the Department of Justice, require a number of disclosures, and prohibit certain practices. Among other things, the new regulations require home improvement contractors to provide customers with a written contract listing all material terms.

Homeowners may not be asked to sign incomplete contracts. Rules also require contractors to provide a completion date in the contract unless a clear disclosure is made to the homeowner.  Contractors may not misrepresent the terms or basis for any discount, nor may they characterize a binding contract as an “estimate.” The regulations also prohibit contractors from obtaining a certificate of completion from a homeowner before the work is completed.

Additional requirements can be found in a summary available here. Contractors must provide a copy of this summary prior to having a buyer sign a home improvement contract. Read the full regulation here.

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“Hiring a contractor to work on your home can often feel like a leap of faith.  These new regulations clarify common sense practices and protections that will help ensure homeowners are treated fairly and give them some peace of mind,” said Attorney General Kathy Jennings. “Establishing clear rules of the road will also help level the playing field for small home improvement businesses throughout Delaware, making it harder for unscrupulous contractors to undercut legitimate ones.”

The Department of Justice receives a large number of complaints about home improvement-related issues each year. DOJ received approximately 80 complaints about home improvement-related issues in 2021, approximately 200 complaints in 2022, and about 120 complaints in the first seven months of 2023. Also, the Consumer Protection Unit has undertaken several investigations into the conduct of home improvement contractors. Through the complaints and investigations, the Consumer Protection Unit has identified practices that frequently harm consumers, many of which are addressed in the new regulations.

The regulations were introduced on April 1 in the Delaware Register of Regulations, and finalized on Oct. 1, following a public hearing held by the Consumer Protection Unit on May 24. The public was given the opportunity to provide the CPU with comments on the proposed regulation both at the public hearing and in writing.

Complaints about home improvement contractors can be made to the DOJ’s Consumer Mediation Unit via the internet or by calling the hotline at (302) 577-8600 or (800) 220-5424.

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