SANATOGA PA – Bruce Foltz, an electrician by trade who also serves as president of the Lower Pottsgrove Board of Commissioners, has fumed for years over how the Pennsylvania Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act usurped the power of local municipalities to supervise and regulate the work of home builders, remodelers, and other contractors. Now, finally, Foltz has something to smile about.
Commissioners earlier this month approved changes to a local law that brought back some, if not all, of the township’s lost power over those tradesmen.
The board ratified amendments to the Registration of Contractors portion of the township code. It requires “contractors who perform the construction of a new home, conversion of an existing commercial structure into a residential or non-commercial structure, or new construction or renovation of a commercial property” to register with the township.
Solicitor Robert Brant explained the changes return to Lower Pottsgrove’s control any and all regulation “that’s not pre-empted” by the state Attorney General’s office under the act.
During the commissioners’ May 5 meeting, Foltz was obviously pleased. “This is something I’ve been working on for a long time,” he noted. He’s contended in the past that municipal officials, who know most contractors and developers by their first names, are best suited to ensure their constituents are protected against the possibility of shoddy workmanship or incomplete jobs.
Pennsylvania’s current governor, Tom Corbett, served as attorney general when the act was pushed through the Legislature in 2008, and Pottstown area state Sen. John Rafferty was among its primary sponsors. News stories at the time regularly reported how some home owners were defrauded by contractors who took their money but failed to deliver promised repairs or improvements.
The act intended to track contractors so their work could be monitored and, if necessary, have claims brought against them. It requires all contractors who perform at least $5,000 worth of home improvements per year to register, either online or by mail, with the Attorney General’s office. Consumers can use an online portal to verify if a contractor in whom they’re interested is registered.
Most outside observers agree the system has worked well during the past five years. On Wednesday (May 21, 2014), current AG Kathleen Kane cited violations of the act in filing the latest lawsuit against contractors who her office alleged either failed to fulfill agreements with clients or performed work “in a substandard manner.” The charges were lodged against three Montgomery County kitchen and bath installers.
When the state began serving as the central database for contractors, Lower Pottsgrove’s ability to govern them waned, Foltz complained, and so too did the registration revenues it annually collected from them. The amended code fills in the gaps, Brant indicated, and specifies the circumstances under which contractors must also register with the township and comply with its rules.
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