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Don't Be an Unlicensed Contractor's Next Victim! - Home Improvement Commission

Ten facts you need to know about unlicensed home improvement contractors:

  1. It is a crime to act as a home improvement contractor, subcontractor or salesperson in the State of Maryland without an MHIC license.
     
  2. An unlicensed contractor may have a criminal history of violent crimes or he may be on probation.
     
  3. Each year, unlicensed home improvement contractors defraud Maryland homeowners of millions of dollars.
     
  4. Unlicensed contractors may charge for work they never perform or for unnecessary repairs.
     
  5. Elderly homeowners are favorite targets of unlicensed contractors.
     
  6. Many unlicensed contractors come to Maryland from other states, so recovering money or stolen items can be very difficult.
     
  7. Often an unlicensed contractor will quote a very low price and then demand more money or engage in a "bait and switch" scam.
     
  8. If a home improvement ad, contract, or vehicle, says "Licensed and Bonded," the individual may not  be licensed and has no bond. Bonding companies typically do not issue performance bonds for residential jobs.
     
  9. An unlicensed contractor may have an invalid or no MHIC number posted on the side of his or her vehicle. It is important to check with MHIC to see if the license number on the vehicle is valid and is issued to the contractor.
     
  10. Unlicensed contractors may have held an MHIC license in the past and had their license revoked because they performed shoddy work, failed to complete jobs, or for other violations of law.

General Advice

  1. Ask to see every contractor's MHIC license and then check with MHIC to make sure the license is still current. You may check online or call 1-888-218-5925 (toll free) or 410-230-6231 (Baltimore area).
     
  2. Ask for a copy of the contractor's current general liability insurance certificate.
     
  3. Ask for local references and don't hire anyone without talking to a reference. Ask to see the job and also ask the references if the contractor completed the work on time and on budget, if the contractor responded to telephone calls or e-mail, and whether they would hire the contractor again. Get at least two bids.
     
  4. If the contractor has employees who will be working at your home, ask to see a copy of a current worker's compensation insurance certificate. If the contractor tells you that he doesn't have employees because he hires subcontractors, ask to see the subcontractor license of each individual who will perform work at your residence.
     
  5. If the deal is too good to be true, it probably is. Often a sweet deal ends up being very expensive to repair. Don’t rush into repairs, no matter how badly they may be needed.
     
  6. If your project requires a building permit from your local jurisdiction, confirm that your contractor will obtain all necessary permits.
     
  7. Make sure all project material selections are spelled out and signed in a written contract. If you don’t understand the contract, have a private attorney review it.
     
  8. Pay no more than 1/3 down as a deposit. Never pay cash.
     
  9. Keep all project documents, including payments, in a job file.
Before you hire any home improvement contractor, contact the Maryland Home Improvement Commission to make sure the contractor is currently licensed!