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General Business Law 36-A Home Improvement

Disclaimer:

The law below is presented as a quick reference tool. While it is believed to be accurate, it is not a certified copy of the law and therefore should not be relied upon for legal interpretation.

The law as printed by Lawyers Cooperative Publishing, will continue to be the official source for legal purposes.

ARTICLE 36-A
HOME IMPROVEMENT CONTRACTS

Section 770. Definitions.
771. Contract provisions.
771-a. Responsibilities of home improvement contractors.
772. Penalty for fraud.
773. Violations.
774. Action by the attorney general.
775. Applicability.
776. Severability.

§ 770. Definitions. As used in this article, the following terms, unless the context requires otherwise, shall have the following meanings:
  1. "Person" means a natural person.
  2. "Owner" means any homeowner, co-operative shareholder owner, or residential tenant, or any person who purchases a custom home as defined in this section.
  3. "Home improvement" means 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, siding, insulation, roofing, windows, terraces, patios, landscaping, fences, porches, garages, solar energy systems, flooring, basements, and other improvements of the residential property and all structures or land adjacent to it. "Home improvement" shall also mean the construction of a custom home, the installation of home improvement goods or the furnishing of home improvement services. "Home improvement" shall not include:
    1. the sale or construction of a new home, other than a custom home as defined in this section;
    2. the sale of goods by a seller who neither arranges to perform nor performs, directly or indirectly, any work or labor in connection with the installation or application of the goods;
    3. the sale or installation of appliances, such as stoves, refrigerators, freezers, room air conditioners, dishwashers, clothes washers or dryers, which are designed to be removable from the premises without material alteration thereof;
    4. the sale or installation of decorative goods or services, such as draperies and carpets; or
    5. the performance of repairs, replacements, or other services pursuant to an express or implied warranty, or a maintenance agreement as defined in section three hundred ninety-five-a of this chapter.
  4. "Home improvement goods or services" means goods and services which are bought in connection with home improvement. Such home improvement goods and services include burglar alarms, texture coating, fencing, air conditioning, heating equipment, and any other goods which, at the time of sale or subsequently, are to be so affixed to real property by the home improvement contractor as to become a part of real property whether or not severable therefrom.
  5. "Home improvement contractor" means a person, firm or corporation which owns or operates a home improvement business or who undertakes, offers to undertake or agrees to perform any home improvement for a fee and for whom the total cash price of all of his home improvement contracts with all his customers exceeds one thousand five hundred dollars during any period of twelve consecutive months. Home improvement contractor does not include a person, firm, corporation, landlord, cooperative corporation, condominium board of managers, joint tenant or co-tenant that owns, in whole or in part, the property to be improved.
  6. "Home improvement contract" means an agreement for the performance of home improvement, between a home improvement contractor and an owner, and where the aggregate contract price specified in one or more home improvement contracts, including all labor, services and materials to be furnished by the home improvement contractor, exceeds five hundred dollars.
  7. "Custom home" means a new single family residence to be constructed on premises owned of record by the purchaser at the time of contract, provided that such residence is intended for residential occupancy by such purchaser and the contract of sale is entered into on or after the first day of March, nineteen hundred ninety.

§ 771. Contract provisions.

  1. Every home improvement contract subject to the provisions of this article, and all amendments thereto, shall be evidenced by a writing and shall be signed by all the parties to the contract. The writing shall contain the following:
    1. The name, address, telephone number and license number, if applicable, of the contractor.
    2. The approximate dates, or estimated dates, when the work will begin and be substantially completed, including a statement of any contingencies that would materially change the approximate or estimated completion date. In addition to the estimated or approximate dates, the contract shall also specify whether or not the contractor and the owner have determined a definite completion date to be of the essence.
    3. A description of the work to be performed, the materials to be provided to the owner, including make, model number or any other identifying information, and the agreed upon consideration for the work and materials.
    4. A notice to the owner purchasing the home improvement that the contractor or subcontractor who performs on the contract or the materialman who provides home improvement goods or services and is not paid may have a claim against the owner which may be enforced against the property in accordance with the applicable lien laws. Such home improvement contract shall also contain the following notice to the owner in clear and conspicuous bold face type: "Any contractor, subcontractor, or materialman who provides home improvement goods or services pursuant to your home improvement contract and who is not paid may have a valid legal claim against your property known as a mechanic's lien. Any mechanic's lien filed against your property may be discharged. Payment of the agreed-upon price under the home improvement contract prior to filing of a mechanic's lien may invalidate such lien. The owner may contact an attorney to determine his rights to discharge a mechanic's lien".
    5. A notice to the owner purchasing the home improvement that, except as otherwise provided in paragraph (g) of this subdivision, the home improvement contractor is legally required to deposit all payments received prior to completion in accordance with subdivision four of section seventy-one-a of the lien law and that, in lieu of such deposit, the home improvement contractor may post a bond, contract of indemnity or irrevocable letter of credit with the owner guaranteeing the return or proper application of such payments to the purposes of the contract.
    6. If the contract provides for one or more progress payments to be paid to the home improvement contractor by the owner before substantial completion of the work, a schedule of such progress payments showing the amount of each payment, as a sum in dollars and cents, and specifically identifying the state of completion of the work or services to be performed, including any materials to be supplied before each such progress payment is due. The amount of any such progress payments shall bear a reasonable relationship to the amount of work to be performed, materials to be purchased, or expenses for which the contractor would be obligated at the time of payment.
    7. If the contract provides that the home improvement contractor will be paid on a specified hourly or time basis for work that has been performed or charges for materials that have been supplied prior to the time that payment is due, such payments for such work or materials shall not be deemed to be progress payments for the purposes of paragraph (f) of this subdivision, and shall not be required to be deposited in accordance with the provisions of paragraph (e) of this subdivision.
    8. A notice to the owner that, in addition to any right otherwise to revoke an offer, the owner may cancel the home improvement contract until midnight of the third business day after the day on which the owner has signed an agreement or offer to purchase relating to such contract. Cancellation occurs when written notice of cancellation is given to the home improvement contractor. Notice of cancellation, if given by mail, shall be deemed given when deposited in a mailbox properly addressed and postage prepaid. Notice of cancellation shall be sufficient if it indicates the intention of the owner not to be bound. Notwithstanding the foregoing, this paragraph shall not apply to a transaction in which the owner has initiated the contact and the home improvement is needed to meet a bona fide emergency of the owner, and the owner furnishes the home improvement contractor with a separate dated and signed personal statement in the owner's handwriting describing the situation requiring immediate remedy and expressly acknowledging and waiving the right to cancel the home improvement contract within three business days. For the purposes of this paragraph the term "owner" shall mean an owner or any representative of an owner.
  2. The writing shall be legible, in plain English, and shall be in such form to describe clearly any other document which is to be incorporated into the contract. Before any work is done, the owner shall be furnished a copy of the written agreement, signed by the contractor. The writing may also contain other matters agreed to by the parties to the contract.

§ 771-a. Responsibilities of home improvement contractors. No home improvement contractor shall engage in any activity, transaction, or course of business or pay or receive any fee, payment, money, or other thing of value in connection with the financing of a home improvement contract without fully disclosing such activity, transaction, or course of business and any fees, payment, or other thing of value paid or to be paid in connection therewith, and without having obtained the agreement in writing from all parties to the transaction to such activity and the payment therefor.

§ 772. Penalty for fraud.

  1. Any owner who is induced to contract for a home improvement, in reliance on false or fraudulent written representations or false written statements, may sue and recover from such contractor a penalty of five hundred dollars plus reasonable attorney's fees, in addition to any damages sustained by the owner by reason of such statements or representations. In addition, if the court finds that the suit by the owner was without arguable legal merit, it may award reasonable attorney's fees to the contractor.
  2. Nothing in this article shall impair, limit, or reduce the statutory, common law or contractual duties or liability of any contractor.

§ 773. Violations.

  1. Technical violations. Every home improvement contractor who violates any of the provisions of this article shall be subject to a civil penalty not to exceed one hundred dollars.
  2. Substantial violations. Every home improvement contractor who fails to deposit funds in an escrow account or provide a bond or contract of indemnity or irrevocable letter of credit in compliance with the requirements of section seventy-one-a of the lien law, or who fails to provide a written contract substantially in compliance with the requirements of this article, shall be subject to a civil penalty not to exceed the greater of two hundred fifty dollars for each violation or five percent of the aggregate contract price specified in the home improvement contract; provided, however, that in no event shall the total penalty exceed twenty-five hundred dollars for each contract.
  3. Mitigating factors; defenses. In an instance where the contractor has been shown to have committed multiple violations of this article or the provisions of section seventy-one-a of the lien law, the court shall consider the following factors in assessing a civil penalty pursuant to subdivision two of this section: the volume of business which the home improvement contractor performs on an annual basis, the number of contracts in violation, the actual financial loss or exposure to financial loss suffered by any owner as a result of the violations, and whether the home improvement contractor acted in good faith or willfully with respect to such violations. No home improvement contractor shall be subject to the increased penalties provided by subdivision two of this section if such contractor shows by a preponderance of the evidence that the violation was not intentional and resulted from a bona fide error made notwithstanding the maintenance of procedures reasonably adopted to avoid such a violation.

§ 774. Action by the attorney general.

  1. Upon any violation of the provisions of this article, an application may be made by the attorney general in the name of the people of the state of New York to a court or justice having jurisdiction to issue an injunction, and upon notice to the defendant of not less than five days, to enjoin and restrain the continuance of the violation. If it shall appear to the satisfaction of the court or justice that the defendant has violated this section, an injunction may be issued by the court or justice, enjoining and restraining any further violation, without requiring proof that any person has, in fact, been injured or damaged thereby. In any such proceeding, the court may make allowances to the attorney general as provided in paragraph six of subdivision (a) of section eight thousand three hundred three of the civil practice law and rules, and direct restitution.
    In connection with an application made under this section, the attorney general is authorized to take proof and to make a determination of the relevant facts and to issue subpoenas in accordance with the civil practice law and rules.
  2. The provisions of this article may be enforced concurrently by the director of a municipal consumer affairs office, or by the town attorney, city corporation counsel, or other lawful designee of a municipality or local government, and all moneys collected thereunder shall be retained by such municipality or local government.

§ 775. Applicability. This article shall not exempt any contractor subject to its provisions from complying with any local law with respect to the regulation of home improvement contractors, provided, however, that after the effective date of this article, no political subdivision may enact a local law inconsistent with the provisions of section seven hundred seventy-one of this article.


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