Friday, February 19, 2010

The Illinois Home Repair and Remodeling Act - Where Do We Go From Here?

This is the ninth and final part in a series of posts on the Illinois Home Repair and Remodeling Act (HRRA).  We have now discussed the law and its interpretation in each of the five Illinois Appellate Districts.  The key question at issue is this - does the HRRA act as a "shield" for the homeowner to prevent a contractor from collecting payment for work completed if the contractor did not comply with the HRRA?  Three of the five appellate districts (the First, Third, and Fourth) have held that the HRRA does shield the homeowner from at least some claims by a non-compliant contractor.  The Second and Fifth Districts have not disagreed.  But the appellate courts have disagreed as to what extent the homeowner is shielded.  The Illinois Supreme Court (IL SC) is scheduled to hear an appeal in at least one HRRA case later this year, which may result in a clearer, statewide interpretation of the HRRA.

A bill (SB 2540) has also been introduced at the Illinois Senate to amend the HRRA by replacing Section 30  (which describes certain violations of the HRRA as "unlawful" but does not elaborate on the legal implications of this assessment) in its entirety, with the following, proposed language:

Sec. 30.  Violation of the Act.  The remedy under this Act for any person who suffers actual damage as a result of a violation of this Act is that such person may bring an action pursuant to 815 ILCS 505/10a of the Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act.  (815 ILCS 513/30)

Attorney Adam Whiteman notes in his recent article on the HRRA in the Illinois State Bar Association's "Real Property" newsletter, that the proposed revision came about after meetings between members of the ISBA and the Illinois Attorney General's Office.  Mr. Whiteman's article also provides an excellent summary of the HRRA and the appellate cases interpreting it.  The Chicago Daily Law Bulletin has also recently written about the HRRA bill.

It is good to see efforts being made in both the IL SC and the General Assembly to clarify the HRRA.  If you have an opinion about the proposed amendment to the statute, you may wish to contact your elected representatives in the General Assembly and let them know.  This is a law that was enacted with the best of intentions to protect homeowners from contractor fraud and to encourage communication clear expectations between homeowners and contractors.  Unfortunately, the law as it stands, pending action by either the IL SC or the legislature, is uncertain and confusing, which prevents the HRRA from accomplishing its purpose.  It has also become clear that there are innocent contractors as well as innocent homeowners, and that some measure of fairness would be appropriate to prevent the HRRA from being used in a draconian fashion, punishing contractors unfairly for minor, harmless violations.

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