Atty Mike Bencal

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Contractors and Consumer Protection


I am constantly getting phone calls from peple desparate to get relief from a contracting job gone bad. As I tell these people, you need to do your homework
BEFORE you turn over one penny of your hard earned money.

In Massachusetts, home improvement contractors must be registered with the Office of Consumer Affairs. You can access the department's website at On this site you can not only check for contractor regisatration information but also for the registration information of a lender. What's more a contractor is required to provide you a contract for services to be provided and list remedies available to you.

There are also a couple other tipoffs to look out for. For instance, showing up in a vehicle with New Hampshire or passenger plates. This should alert you that the person may not be in it for the long haul. As an example there is a contractor operating in Salem, who lives in Salem, has a Salem address on the side of his vehicle, but has his work vehicle registered in New Hampshire. Would you feel comfortable giving this person ten or fifteen thousand dollars? I wouldn't!

Other tips are when they demand cash, won't enter into a written contract, won't provide proof of insurance, or won't provide a street address for the business or themselves.

Even if all checks out (the vast majority of contractors are good hard working people) disputes arise. What then? Spend thousands of dollars in court? Not necessarily. With mediation you, and the contractor, can save considerable time, money, and aggrivation by mediating your dispute.

As a mediator I am hired by BOTH parties and charge about a quarter of my normal hourly rate. Both parties set the issues and get to have their say. Mediation not only saves money but also aggrivation.

Mediation is paid for by both parties. The current rate is $75/hour with an initial four hour minimum. So for the first four hours each party has to come up with $150 - less than the filing fees in court!

So when it comes to mediation, as the commercial used to say, "try it, you'll like it."

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