Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings’ Consumer Protection Unit promulgated final regulations that establish clear rules of the road for the Home Improvement Services industry in Delaware. The regulations are based on hundreds of complaints received by the Department of Justice, and it requires a number of disclosures and prohibits certain practices regarding home improvement transactions. Among other requirements, the new regulations mandate home improvement contractors to provide customers with a written contract listing all material terms. Homeowners may not be asked to sign incomplete contracts. They 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 actually completed. The regulations, issued pursuant to the Consumer Fraud Act, become effective today, November 1st.
Additional Information from the Delaware Department of Justice:
Additional requirements in the new regulations can be found in a summary published by the CPU today, and available here. Effective today, contractors must provide a copy of this summary prior to having a buyer sign a home improvement contract. Read the full regulation here.
“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 approximately 120 complaints in the first 7 months of the 2023. Additionally, 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 been able to identify practices that frequently harm consumers, many of which are addressed in the new regulations.
The Regulations were introduced on April 1, 2023, in the Delaware Register of Regulations, and finalized on October 1, 2023, following a public hearing held by the Consumer Protection Unit (“CPU”) on May 24, 2023. The public was given the opportunity to provide the CPU with comments on the proposed regulation both at the public hearing and in writing.
Homeowners are reminded that 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.
Deputy Attorney General Brian Canfield drafted the regulations, with support from Paralegal Rhynn Evans, who oversaw and managed the regulatory process for the DOJ; assistance from Special Investigator Joseph Rago; and oversight from Consumer Protection Director Marion Quirk.