If you are like many contractors, odds are that your home improvement contract (HIC) is not compliant with California law, putting you at risk for disciplinary action, voiding of the contract, and even criminal prosecution.
Generally, the laws allow parties to contract how they wish. However, California HICs are an exception and California Business and Professions Code (BPC) requires much in the way of content, form and formatting for a HIC to meet the legal requirements. This is because California has written its laws to provide broad protections to homeowners when it comes to construction work performed at their residence. However, in attempting to promote this goal, the laws surrounding HICs have produced requirements that are confusing and fail to account for the realities of a home improvement project, making it difficult and uncomfortable for contractors to comply.
A HIC is required for home improvement projects that change a residence or property. Specifically, the law defines a “home improvement” as “the repairing, remodeling, altering, converting, or modernizing of, or adding to, residential property and shall include, but not be limited to, the construction, erection, replacement or improvement of driveways, swimming pools, including spas and hot tubs, terraces, patios, awnings, storm windows, landscaping, fences, porches, garages, fallout shelters, basements, and other improvements of the structures or land which is adjacent to a dwelling house.” (BPC section 7151.) A HIC is not required for new residential construction; for work priced at $500 or less; the sale, installation, and service of a fire alarm or burglar system; or a service and repair contract (which has its own requirements).
When a HIC is used, BPC section 7159 specifies certain content, form, and format requirements, all of which must be followed to produce a compliant HIC. While this article will not discuss all of these requirements, it will discuss some of the problems commonly seen in HICs.