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Home improvement contract enforceable

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Even though a restoration company’s contract with a homeowner did not satisfy the requirements of the Home Improvement Contracts Act, that did not automatically render the contract void, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled. The judges reversed judgment in favor of the homeowner and ordered he pay the company for the work it performed.

In Imperial Insurance Restoration & Remodeling, Inc. v. James Costello, No. 10A05-1109-SC-478, James Costello and his wife hired Imperial Insurance Restoration and Remodeling to repair water damage in their home following a burst pipe. The Costellos’ insurance company put them in touch with Imperial. James Costello did not read the agreements he signed, which included a work authorization and a satisfaction of work completed. The paperwork he signed did not comply with the requirements of the Home Improvement Contracts Act, which Imperial later admitted.

The Costellos received $670 from their insurer to cover the clean-up costs but did not pay Imperial for the work. Imperial took James Costello to small claims court and the court ruled in his favor. He asserted as a defense that the contracts did not comply with the HICA and were void.

The appellate judges pointed out that the HICA is silent as to whether contracts that do not meet the requirements are void or unenforceable. It declares a nonconforming contract to be a deceptive act and affords the aggrieved customer the remedies available to victims of deceptive consumer sales under the Deceptive Consumer Sales Act. The judges determined that the lack of the use of “void” or “unenforceable” in the HICA did not mean the General Assembly intended that every contract made in violation of the HICA was automatically void.

“If we were to so hold, Imperial would suffer both a serious and undeserved forfeiture outweighing the other factors,” wrote Judge L. Mark Bailey.

The COA ordered judgment be entered in favor of Imperial for $669.86 and that the small claims court determine the contractual interest due on the contract and if any costs and attorney fees should be awarded.

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