In Behl v. Gingerich, the Fourth Appellate District of Illinois recently weighed in on what constitutes “substantial compliance” with the Illinois Home Repair and Remodeling Act[“the Act”]. In the summer of 2006, defendant Gingerich approached John Behl[d/b/a Behl Construction] about doing some work at the Gingerich home. Defendant Gingerich was a plumbing contractor and had worked with Behl and had confidence in him. Gingerich wanted Behl to build a garage, do some remodeling inside the home and on an existing porch. Plaintiff submitted a bid. The cost was too high and the parties talked about cutting some expense. A second bid was resubmitted and defendant agreed to the terms. The job was scheduled to last 3 months. On several occasions, plaintiff accompanied the defendant to the bank for partial draws and execution of lien waivers. As luck would have it, the parties ultimately had a disagreements about monies owed and work left to be completed. Finally plaintiff concluded he was going to get stiffed and left the job.
In August, 2007, plaintiff filed suit. Ultimately, plaintiff filed a second amended complaint, alleging breach of contract[Count I], foreclosure of mechanic’s lien[Count II] and promissory estoppel [Count III]. Defendant’s answer alleged that plaintiff had failed to comply with the Act, by not securing a written, signed contract before beginning construction. The case went to trial and the Court awarded plaintiff $9594.93. Defendant appealed, insisting that the plaintiff had committed unlawful acts by failing to secure a signed contract and failing to provide defendant with a consumer rights brochure.
The Appellate Court noted for any repair or remodeling over $1000 the contractor is required to provided the customer with a written work order or contract and have the customer sign it. Additionally, the Act requires contractors to provided customers with a brochure detailing their rights. Behl did neither. The question for the Court was – did Behl substantially comply? The Court, after an exhaustive analysis of recent caselaw concluded Behl did substantially comply with the requirements. It was particularly important to the Court that both parties were in the construction trade and had negotiated extensively regarding the job. Absent those facts, Behl might not have prevailed. Most prudent course of action? Do exactly what the Act requires. Don’t take any chances.

Categories: ILLINOIS LAW