Recently,the Attorney General’s office announced another criminal conviction against a home improvement contractor responsible for many failed home improvement contracts. The report also indicated that the homeowner consumers were going to get some financial relief from the Home Improvement Guaranty Fund (HIGF). The HIGF offers up to $15,000 in relief to consumers who meet certain conditions including:
- failed contract with a register contractor
- contract was for residential dwelling
- you must first obtain a court judgment against the contractor
- you must take reasonable steps to enforce the judgment without success
Any consumer who meets this criteria can file an application that is posted online. This applies to home improvements, not new construction. Consumers of new home construction in Connecticut can apply to the New Home Guaranty Fund (NHGF) for up to $30,000 in relief. The same basic criteria apply here, but the fund involves new home construction contracts.
Many times, when a contractor goes bankrupt or has no assets, the HIGF and NHGF are the only source of recovery for consumers that were victim of defective or negligent construction for new construction and home improvements. When a consumer decides to bring a lawsuit against a contractor, the first questions asked should be whether the contractor has assets to pay any judgment. If not, the funds may be the only realistic option for recovery
Of course, the goal is for homeowners to find their way to the many reputable contractors in Connecticut to avoid this type of problem. Reputable contractors will urge consumers to look up a contractor’s history of complaints with the Department of Consumer Protection before signing a contract. Consumers should also ask for references and follow up on them before signing any contract. A reputable contractor will have no problem providing several references and examples of work product.
It is also critical that a consumer check to see if a contractor is properly registered before signing the contract. Although failing to properly register may be criminal, the lack of registration could prevent a consumer from recovering even the limited amounts under the guaranty funds.