As loyal Blog followers will recall, I have written extensively about the Illinois Home Repair and Remodeling Act (the "Act") for the past several years. (For instance, the consequences for failure to deliver the Consumer Rights Brochure, the availability of equitable remedies for contractors without written contracts, and an analysis of my Illinois Supreme Court case involving the Act's applicability to subcontractors.)
Until now, all of the published cases involving the Act have involved private disputes between homeowners and contractors. You will recall, however, that the Act allows the Attorney General or the State's Attorney of any county to bring an action in the name of the people to remedy violations of the Act. Section 35 of the Act says that all remedies, penalties,and authority granted the Attorney General or State's Attorney under the Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Practices Act shall be available to him or her for enforcement of the Home Repair and Remodeling Act.
In 2009, Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed five lawsuits in Cook County against contractors for violations of the Act. (See her press release HERE.) Last week, the First District appellate court issued an opinion in People v. Steven R. Smith. The State alleged that Mr. Smith violated by the Act, the Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Act, and the Roofing Industry Licensing Act. The State alleged that he was in the business of providing home repair services despite not being a licensed contractor, that he failed to give the Consumer Rights Brochure, and that he took partial payments on jobs but then failed to complete the jobs or refund the money.
Mr. Smith defended the case pro se (never a good idea ... unless you're THIS GUY). Mr. Smith failed to answer several paragraphs of the complaint and key allegations were deemed admitted. As a result, summary judgment entered against him in the trial court. The court entered a civil penalty of $50,000 against Mr. Smith and also permanently enjoined him from engaging in future home repair or remodeling work in Illinois.
Mr. Smith argued on appeal that the permanent injunction prohibiting him from future home repair or remodeling work was unduly harsh because it barred him from performing an otherwise lawful activity upon which he depended for his livelihood. The Appellate Court first noted that a permanent injunction was an available remedy under Section 7(a) of the Consumer Fraud Act. That section states that "The Court, in its discretion, may impose an injunction..." So, the Appellate Court stated that it would not disturb the trial court's exercise of discretion absent an abuse of that discretion. After examining Mr. Smith's widespread practice of accepting deposits from customers but then not performing the work, the Court found that the injunction was reasonable because it was specifically tailored to prohibit the activity underlying Mr. Smith's previous illegal acts.
So, if Mr. Smith is caught doing home repair and remodeling work in the future, even if doesn't swindle anybody next time, he could be found in contempt of court for the violation of the permanent injunction.