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My contractor took the deposit and never started the work

Philadelphia, PA |

I signed a contract with a contractor who agreed to start work on the date specified in the contract and took deposit for the materials. This was about a month ago and work has not started. The check was cashed and the contractor has said several excuses for delaying. Now he refuses to pick up the phone. What can I do to get back my deposit money and cancel the contract on the grounds of breach of contract? I have phone records, voicemails, and the contract to prove my case.

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Attorney answers 1


You may have several options. If you are a consumer, you may have the protection of consumer protection laws such as the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law and the Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act ("HICPA").

Assuming the contract was for work at your residence and considered a "home improvement", you may be able to avail yourself of the protections of HICPA. HICPA applies to "Home Improvement Contracts". It requires contractors to register with the attorney general (is your registered?), requires the use of written contracts for home improvement of more than a few hundred dollars, limits the amount of a deposit a contractor can require, and prohibits taking a deposit (other than for special order materials) before a contract is signed. It also provides remedies for contractors who don't maintain start/end dates that they agree to in the contract. Additionally, home improvement contracts must comply with HICPA's strict requirements, and if they don't, the homeowner can void the contract. HICPA is enforced by the attorney general, but you can file lawsuits for breaches of HICPA as well. Check out the attorney general's site for more info:

Additionally, fraudulent or deceptive practices against consumers are prohibited by the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law . You may have remedies under this law as well.

If you are not a consumer or the work was not a home improvement, your remedies are likely more contractual in nature. If you can't persuade the contractor to return your deposit, this means you'll likely have to commence a lawsuit to seek the return of your deposit.