The 2009 Pennsylvania Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act was originally applauded for helping property owners differentiate between good and bad contractors. The law requires contractors to register via a state database, carry a minimum of $50,000 insurance, disclose bankruptcy filings, criminal convictions, and civil judgments The Intelligencer reports on how the law has a wide-range of loopholes that are hurting consumers:
Despite their good intentions, lawmakers failed to make it a criminal violation to lie on a registration form or fail to register. Instead of criminal charges, contractors face mere fines of between $1,000 and $3,000 per violation. With potential profits far exceeding the cost of the fines, some contractors apparently view what amounts to a hand slap as a risk well worth taking. As a result, consumers continue to get ripped off.
Also, while contractors who break the law can be booted off the registry, keeping a contractor off the registry requires the state attorney general to obtain a court order. And even with a court order, a banished contractor can get reinstated after five years.
Republican state Senator Tommy Tomilson hopes to revise the act by saying that contractors who fail to register and enter into an agreement for more than $2,000 will then face a third-degree felony charge. The bill has 10 co-sponsors and will most likely receive committee approval.