Attorney General: Honorable Gloria Schaffer, Commissioner of Consumer Protection, 1992-017 Formal Opinion, Attorney General of Connecticut

Attorney General's Opinion

Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal

June 26, 1992

Honorable Gloria Schaffer
Commissioner of Consumer Protection
165 Capitol Avenue - Rm. 105
Hartford, CT 06106

Dear Commissioner Schaffer

In your March 16, 1992 letter, you have sought this Office's advice as to whether a consumer may access the Home Improvement Guaranty Fund on more than one occasion against the same contractor. More specifically, you inquire as follows:

  1. Can the Department obtain multiple or separate orders for restitution on behalf of a consumer who has entered into more than one contract with a home improvement contractor?

  2. If the answer to question number one is in the affirmative, can the Department accept and process more than one guaranty fund claim from a consumer against a home improvement contractor when the claims are based on separate judgments/orders for restitution, and when the total of all claims exceeds ten thousand dollars?

The answer to both questions is in the affirmative. The analysis of these issues rests solely upon the unambiguous language of the Home Improvement Guaranty Fund.

The Guaranty Fund is administered by the Commissioner and generated from contributions from contractors and salesmen in connection with registration applications and renewals. The purpose of the Guaranty Fund is to provide a means for homeowners to collect from the Fund on judgments obtained against home improvement contractors.

In response to your first question, the Guaranty Fund may be accessed by a homeowner in a variety of manners. Subsection (d) of Conn. Gen. Stat. 20-432 (as amended by 1991 Conn. Public Acts No. 91-325, 2) refers to a homeowner obtaining a court judgment against a contractor "for loss or damages sustained by reason of performance of or offering to perform a home improvement." Emphasis added. Subsection (f) of Conn. Gen. Stat. 20-432 (as amended by 1991 Conn. Public Acts No. 91-325, 2) provides access to the Guaranty Fund for the same cause of action when pursued by the Commissioner or the Attorney General. Neither subsection precludes multiple access by a homeowner against the same contractor, based upon separate and distinct contracts.

In response to your second question, Conn. Gen. Stat. 20-432(k) provides:

In order to preserve the integrity of the guaranty fund, the commissioner, in his sole discretion, may order payment out of said fund of an amount less than the actual loss or damages incurred by the owner or less than the order of restitution awarded by the commissioner or the superior court. In no event shall any payment out of said guaranty fund be in excess of ten thousand dollars for any single claim by an owner.

Emphasis added.1

The express language of subsection (k) provides that no "single" claim of a homeowner may exceed $10,000.00. There is nothing in this subsection or any other section of the Guaranty Fund that would indicate the legislature sought to limit the ability of a homeowner to redress claims based on multiple contracts against a contractor. The express language indicates that the legislature contemplated multiple claims by reference to the monetary, amount of "any single claim." "In the absence of ambiguity, statutory language should be given its plain and ordinary meaning." Pintavalle v. Valkans, 216 Conn. 412, 416-17 (1990). Accordingly, the cumulative amount of multiple claims from one homeowner against one contractor may exceed $10,000.00.

We trust this answers your questions.

Very truly yours,

RICHARD BLUMENTHAL
ATTORNEY GENERAL

Neil G. Fishman
Assistant Attorney General

RB/NGF/ps


1 This section was re-numbered by 1991 Conn. Public Acts No. 91-325, 2. However, the amendment did not affect the language of the section.


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