Is Your Contractor Licensed?

Susan’s Note: I’m kicking this 2006 post to the top because of a home improvements door-hanger that was delivered today. It says “Licensed and Insured – Nelson Ortega”, but I sure can’t find him in the database. I’m not saying he’s not legit – I’m saying do your homework before signing any contracts. You might also find 12 Tips for Hiring a Remodeling Contractor useful.

Follow-up note from a Cheverly resident: If a contractor, sitter, cleaner, or anyone we hire lives in MD, I use this website to see if they’ve been involved in some type of court action. I’ve found a couple contractors we were going to use who had criminal charges against them: http://casesearch.courts.state.md.us/inquiry/inquiry-index.jsp

The other day I came home and found a flyer for a home improvement contractor stuck in my door. While the flyer stated that the company served Maryland and Washington and that it is licensed, bonded and insured, the license number was nowhere to be found. I went onto the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation website and put in the company’s name. According to the DLLR, this particular company was not licensed in Maryland at all.

This got me to thinking about the hazards of working with unlicensed contractors. Especially since more than 85% of homes in Cheverly, for example, were built before 1979, making this a prime area for remodeling and renovation.

Did you know that it is a criminal offense for contractors to do home improvements without a license? Like the Real Estate Commission, the Home Improvement Commission has a Guaranty Fund. This Fund compensates homeowners for actual monetary losses due to poor workmanship or failure to perform a home improvement contract and protects homeowners up to $15,000. The Fund applies only to work done by licensed contractors. So if you use an unlicensed contractor, you aren’t protected by the Guaranty Fund.

Using an unlicensed contractor may even depreciate the value of your home. Many buyers today are leery of buying houses where remodeling was done by unlicensed contractors or where the proper permits weren’t pulled. Many buyers feel that if you don’t care enough to use a licensed contractor, where else might you have cut corners? They also worry about problems with wiring and plumbing down the road. I know that the previous owner of our house was a definite do-it-yourselfer and not necessarily a talented one at that. It cost quite a bit of money to re-do correctly what he had done poorly.

To find out if a contractor is licensed, visit the DLLR website.

Also, if your house was built prior to 1979, your contractor may be required to have lead abatement accreditation and be required to give you lead hazard information. For more information, there are fact sheets at the EPA website.

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One Response to Is Your Contractor Licensed?

  1. Toni Harris says:

    Addendum to post in September 2011. This guy was instructed to come when I was at home. He came when I was not at home. The “wood” replaced at my gutter was pressed wood not the composite paid for and as of today 6/23/12 the work is being re-done and I am pursing a lawsuit. Do not use!!!!.

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