As a general rule of thumb, it is largely inevitable that nearly every
construction project will at some point in time experience certain problems
of varying degrees and complexities. In many instances, these problems
are merely so-called "bumps in the road" that are resolved between
the parties without the necessity of judicial intervention. Sometimes,
however, the issues between the parties may be of such great severity
and consequence that the dispute risks derailing the project. Finger-pointing
quickly turns into polarization, and results in the parties returning
to their respective corners to square off for the fight. Before resorting
to the courts, however, the contract at issue may require the parties
to engage in alternate dispute resolution, such as mediation or arbitration.
In the case of arbitration, a neutral third party presides over the dispute
in a quasi-judicial like proceeding, and thereafter, renders a decision.
Where the parties are not required to participate in ADR, or the process
is waived or deemed unsuccessful, the stark reality is that certain disputes
must be resolved through the filing of a lawsuit.
How does the process work in Massachusetts?
In Massachusetts, the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation
("OCABR") regulates the registration of contractors performing
improvements or renovations on residential properties. Prior to performing
work on a residential structure, a contractor must be registered as a
Home Improvement Contractor ("HIC") pursuant to M.G.L. c. 142A.
Chapter 142A sets out the parameters for registration and empowers OCABR
to administer the program. All persons, individuals, proprietorships,
partnerships, or corporations who solicit, bid on, or perform residential
contracting as a contractor or subcontractor on an existing one to four
unit owner-occupied residential building must register. The Office of
Consumer Affairs runs an arbitration program to resolve disputes between
registered contractors and homeowners, and administers a Guaranty Fund
for homeowners with unpaid judgments against registered contractors.
In Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Contractors' Registration and Licensing
Board ("the Board") regulates the registration of contractors
performing improvements or renovations. The RI Contractors' Registration
Law ("RICRL") requires that every contractor, remodeler, and
most subcontractors who are in the business of building or repairing residential
or commercial structures (excluding such notable tradesmen as plumbers,
electricians, and pipefitters who are already licensed under a different
state agency) and anyone who demolishes or moves a residential or commercial
structure to register. Persons or businesses who furnish materials, supplies,
equipment, etc. and who do not fabricate these supplies or materials in
the work of a contractor do not have to register, however if registered
they can use the boards dispute resolution process. It is important to
note that the RICRL is not a licensing law; instead it is a law designed
to register contractors so that claims filed against them can be heard
The RICRL does require that every registrant have minimum insurance coverage
in the amount of five hundred thousand ($500,000.00) dollars combined
single limit, bodily injury, and property damage. There are wide ranging
penalties under the RICRL for violators. For example, contractors, remodelers,
and subcontractors who do not have a valid registration certificate will
not be able to bid on work or obtain a building permit in any of Rhode
Island's 39 cities or towns. Before obtaining a building permit, contractors
and remodelers will be required to submit their registration. Additionally,
a contractor, remodeler, or subcontractor who does not have a valid registration
will not be able to file a lien, or file a law suit for compensation for
work done on a structure. It is also a misdemeanor offense to not be registered
in the State of Rhode Island without a proper registration card issued
by the Board and violators are subject to fines of up to $5,000.00 for
the first offense. The Board is vested with broad disciplinary powers
The Board can refuse to issue or can suspend or revoke the registration
of the contractor, remodeler, or subcontractor; additionally it can impose
fines. Unlike Massachusetts, there is no fund to compensate a consumer
who has been defrauded by a contractor, remodeler, or subcontractor registered
under the law. The Board does, however, criminally pursue compliance of
final orders in district court with the attorney general.
D. Baker Law Group, P.C. represents parties on all sides of construction
disputes, including property owners, general contractors, subcontractors,
architects, and material suppliers. We routinely advise and assist businesses
and individuals throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the state
of Rhode Island in drafting, negotiating, and litigating construction
contracts. Attorney Baker is well versed in the law and has the foresight
and experience to identify potential pitfalls before they unfold and /
or advocate effectively and aggressively for the client once the dispute arises.
David M. Baker, Esq.-
your Massachusets and Rhode Island Construction Law Attorney!
schedule your case evaluation? Simply
call our firm today.