DLLR's Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing

 

General Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) - Maryland Home Improvement Commission

 

The following questions are most frequently submitted to the Maryland Home Improvement Commission. These questions and answers are provided for informational purposes only and should not be considered as legal advice. If you have legal questions, you may wish to consult an attorney. MHIC does not provide legal advice.

  1. Advertising
  2. Business License
  3. Carpet Installation
  4. Central Vacuum System
  5. Chimney Sweeps
  6. Cleaning and Maintenance
  7. Complaint History
  8. Demolition
  9. Driveway Sealcoating
  10. Exam Preparation
  11. Home Theatres
  12. House Painting
  13. Gravel Driveways
  14. Guaranty Fund for Home Improvement
  15. Interior Window Treatments
  16. Lead Paint
  17. License Application
  18. Marine Contractor License
  19. Mediation
  20. Mold Remediation
  21. New Home Construction
  22. Out-of-State Contractor's License
  23. Paper License
  24. Patios and Retaining Walls
  25. Permits
  26. Playgrounds
  27. Pole Buildings
  28. Reciprocity
  29. Salespersons
  30. Sheds
  31. Show Cause Hearings
  32. Solar Panels
  33. Subcontractor License
  34. Tree Cutters
  35. Unlicensed Contractors
  36. Warranties

1. Advertising
What information is required to be contained in an advertisement for home improvement services? Also, is a discount on the price of the project for signing a home improvement contract by a certain date considered a gift or bonus award? Or are gifts and bonus awards considered to be only things other than the products and services offered in the home improvement and the price paid?

Each home improvement advertisement must contain the name and license number of the contractor. Ads cannot be deceptive, false, or misleading. Any advertisement that offers a discount coupon may not contain a requirement that the coupon be presented before the contractor provides an estimate or proposal. If the price stated in the ad does not include all costs of items necessary for the proper function and appearance of the installed product, an explanatory statement must clearly printed. Also, if the price does not include a delivery or installation charge, the ad must conspicuously disclose this fact.

Section 8-503(b) of the Home Improvement Law states that "A contractor or salesperson may not offer, give, or pay to an owner a gift, bonus award, merchandise, trading stamps, or cash loan as an inducement to make a home improvement contract." A sale or price reduction is not considered by the Commission to be a gift or a bonus award.

2. Business License

3. Carpet Installation
I am interested in starting a company to install carpet. Do I need to hold a MHIC license? I would also like to install some tile flooring.

Installing carpet is not within the definition of "home improvement" so a MHIC license is not required. However, in order to install tile, wood, or other flooring, a home improvement contractor or subcontractor license is required.

4. Central Vacuum System
Is a MHIC license required to install a central vacuum system in a residence that is not a new home?

Yes, a MHIC license is required to install a central vacuum system in a residence (other than new home construction) because the installation becomes permanently affixed to the house or property.

5. Chimney Sweeps
Does DLLR regulate and or license Chimney Sweeps operating in the state of Maryland?

DLLR does not regulate chimney sweeps; cleaning chimneys is not considered "home improvement." However, if additional work is solicited or performed, such as building or reinforcing the chimney, or installing a chimney cap, then a Home Improvement license is required.

6. Cleaning and Maintenance
I want to begin a business or start working independently. What I intend to do is produce a business that is structured towards housekeeping and/or cleaning homes. Is the Home Improvement License something I should obtain?

The Home Improvement license is not required to clean residences of dirt or debris. Likewise, a MHIC license is not required to clean carpet.

7. Complaint History
How do you check a contractor's number to see if they have any complaints? How far back you can search for complaints?

Anyone may check a contractor's complaint history by calling the Home Improvement Commission, Monday-Friday, 8:30 AM - 4:30 PM, at the following telephone numbers: 1-888-218-5925 (toll free) or 410-230-6309 (Baltimore area), or by sending an email to mhic@dllr.state.md.us.

Complaints filed within the last 3 fiscal years are reportable to the public, within 30 days of being filed. Certain complaints that are determined to lack merit are not reportable to the public.

8. Demolition
I hired a contractor who was referred by my insurance company to tear down our house after it was condemned due to storm damage. The contract was for demolition and clean-up only. Is the contractor required to have a MHIC license?

No, demolition and clean-up work is not considered to be within the definition of "home improvement." Therefore, the contractor is not required to hold a MHIC license to perform these services. If the contractor performs any repair services at the house, then a MHIC license is required.

9. Driveway Sealcoating
Two weeks ago I was approached while in my yard by a man offering to seal my driveway. He said his equipment was nearby and he could make me a good deal as a result. The card he left does not have a Maryland contractor's number on it. We didn't take him up on his offer because I wasn't sure it was legitimate. What are your thoughts?

Driveway sealcoating is one of the most prevalent home improvement scams in Maryland. You were wise not to hire this individual. Many unlicensed contractors will approach unsuspecting homeowners and try to persuade them into handing over thousands of dollars. In most cases, the "sealcoating" is nothing more than black paint that is worthless on a driveway. Anytime you are approached at your home by an individual selling a home improvement job, that transaction is covered by the Maryland Door-to-Door Sales Act, which mandates that you have until midnight of the third business day following the transaction to cancel the contract.

10. Exam Preparation

11. Home Theatres
If a television retailer is also installing wall mounted TV's (i.e. drilling screws into the well to hang a wall mount and installing the TV on the mount, do they need an MHIC license?

The Commission has determined that installing wall-mounted televisions or home theatres in residences is not considered "home improvement;" therefore a MHIC license is not required.

12. House Painting
Does a house painter need to be licensed as a home improvement contractor? House painting means painting walls in houses, painting exteriors, and faux finishing.

Painting of houses is included within the definition of "home improvement." This includes interior and exterior painting and decorative painting also.

13. Gravel Driveways
I have a gravel driveway at my house. Does the person who works on the driveway to add more gravel and fix the pot holes need to hold a MHIC license?

Yes, driveways, including gravel driveways, are within the definition of "home improvement;" therefore a licensed contractor is required to perform the work.

14. Guaranty Fund for Home Improvement
Does the MD HIC have a Recovery Fund, against which I can put in a claim to recover some or all of my damages?

Yes, the Home Improvement Commission administers a Guaranty Fund that reimburses eligible homeowners for the "actual loss" caused by the unworkmanlike, inadequate, or incomplete home improvement performed by a licensed home improvement contractor. Each homeowner is entitled to recover up to $20,000 per contract, or the amount spent on the home improvement contract that is the subject of the claim, whichever is less. However, if all the claims against a contractor exceed $100,000, then the homeowners' awards are pro-rated.

The Fund covers only the cost to complete, repair, restore, or replace the faulty work; it does not cover other losses, such as consequential damages (i.e., water damage), interest, or attorney fees.

15. Interior Window Treatments
We ONLY do Interior window treatments. Never exterior and never anything that would affect the structural integrity of a private home or commercial business. Never have, never will. Is a MHIC license required?

No, a MHIC license is not required for interior window treatments, such as installing curtains or blinds. This is considered decorating and is not within the definition of "home improvement."

16. Lead Paint
I just read the section on lead based paint renovation. I so seldom come in contact with this issue I just wasn't sure. I see it says you must be certified to work with lead as of April 2010. How/where does a person obtain certification?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has strict guidelines that cover work performed in any home built prior to 1978. The Lead-Safe Renovation, Repairs and Painting program requires that each contractor become lead-safe certified prior to performing such work. For more information about this program, including how to become lead-safe certified or to find a course provider in your area, please visit EPA website.

17. License Application
Our company would like to know what are the requirements for general contactors to get licensed in the state of MD. Is there an application/testing process?

Yes, each individual who wishes to obtain a MHIC license as a contractor, subcontractor, or salesperson must register to take the licensure exam. After passing the exam, the individual receives the license application package. The exams are administered by PSI Exams, Inc. For more information about registering for the exam, please visit the PSI exam website and follow the links to the Maryland Home Improvement Commission's Candidate Information Bulletin.

The Commission hosts a free workshop on the third Thursday of every other month (even numbered months only) at 2 p.m. for anyone who is interested in learning more about the licensing requirements and process. The workshop is held at 500 N. Calvert Street, Baltimore, MD 21202. Registration is not required. Please use the Centre Street entrance.

18. Marine Contractor License

19. Mediation
What is the mediation program? How do I know if it is right for me?

The MHIC offers mediation free of charge to homeowners and contractors who are interested in working together to resolve their disputes. With mediation, the parties will meet at a convenient time and location with a trained professional who will listen to both sides and then work to create a solution that benefits each side. If the parties reach an agreement during mediation, the MHIC will dismiss the complaint.

20. Mold Remediation

21. New Home Construction

22. Out-of-State Contractor's License

23. Paper License

24. Patios and Retaining Walls
Is a MD Home Improvement License required to install paver patios and retaining walls or is the MHIC license only required to do home improvements to the house or things that connect to the house, like a deck?

Yes, installing patios and retaining walls at a residence is considered "home improvement." The definition of "home improvement" includes "an improvement to land adjacent" to the residence, as well as improvements to the residence itself.

25. Permits
Who is responsible for getting a permit?

The Commission's regulations provide that it is the obligation of the prime contractor on a home improvement project to: a)obtain all required building permits; or b) to make sure that all required permits have been obtained. Permits issued to a home improvement contractor must include the contractor's license number..

26. Playgrounds
Are there any regulations, laws, licensing required for playgrounds in local developments? I am on the board of my Homeowner's Association and the request has been made to construct a playground/swing set for children.

Work done on community property does not fall within the jurisdiction of the Home Improvement Commission. If a homeowner hires someone to build a swing set or jungle gym at their home, then a MHIC license is required, if the structure will be permanently attached to the land.

27. Pole Buildings
About a year ago I started a Pole Building company out of Lancaster County PA. I would like to also cover the Maryland area. Basically I will just sell the product & sub it out to a sub contractor. Can you please tell me what I will need to do this?

Pole buildings are included within the definition of "home improvement" so you will need to obtain a MHIC contractor license to sell pole buildings if the buildings will be installed on residential properties and if the sale includes the installation of the pole building.

28. Reciprocity

29. Salespersons

30. Sheds
Do contractors who sell and deliver those prefab, movable sheds need a MHIC license?

A home improvement license is required if the shed will be permanently installed by the contractor on land adjacent to residence. If the contractor sells and delivers the shed and simply places it on the ground, or on a non-permanent foundation such as cinder blocks, the contractor is not required to hold a MHIC license.

31. Show Cause Hearings
I filed a complaint and now the contractor is scheduled to appear at a show cause hearing. Can you please explain what that means?

MHIC holds show cause hearings every other month before a Hearing Board of the Commission. The purpose of the show cause hearing is for contractors to appear and explain to the Hearing Board why they failed to respond in writing to a complaint, as required by the Home Improvement Law. Following the hearing, the Hearing Board can decide to fine the contractor or suspend the contractor's MHIC license.

32. Solar Panels
Is a MHIC license required to install solar panels on a home? Are any other type licenses also required?

Yes, a home improvement contractor or subcontractor license is required to install solar panels for a homeowner, regardless of whether the panels will be installed on the home or an outbuilding adjacent to a residence, or will be attached to the land next to the residence. A licensed master electrician is required to hook the panels to the electric system.

33. Subcontractor License

34. Tree Cutters
Are tree cutters licensed by MHIC?

While landscape contractors are licensed by MHIC, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources is responsible for licensing tree experts. A tree expert's work includes trimming, pruning, thinning, cabling, shaping, removing, or reducing the crown of trees that are 20 feet or more in height.

35. Unlicensed Contractors
I am a licensed contractor and have seen lots of unlicensed contractors who underbid licensed contractors. Unlicensed contractors don't have insurance and don't pay taxes so does MHIC do anything about this problem?

MHIC investigators actively work to enforce the home improvement law by coordinating with the local prosecutor's offices throughout the State and by continuously educating homeowners about the risks and dangers of hiring unlicensed contractors. MHIC depends upon licensed contractors and homeowners filing written complaints against unlicensed contractors. Each month, MHIC investigators make approximately 75 appearances at criminal trials against unlicensed contractors. If you wish to file a written complaint against an unlicensed contractor, please do so and include as much specific information as possible, including the contractor's full name, address, and the dates and location where the work was solicited or performed. You may file a complaint even if you did not hire or pay the unlicensed contractor.

36. Warranties
Please advise what Maryland State Law is regarding unconditional labor warranty for home improvements (such as roofing) done by MHIC Licensed Companies. I believe the Law is 3 years unconditional labor warranty. Please confirm and advise if this correct; please also provide law reference where this is stated. I received information today that the company went out of business in August 2010.

Warranties are covered by the Maryland Service Contracts and Consumer Products Guaranty Act, which is found in Title 14 of the Commercial Law Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland. Typically, MHIC does not enforce warranties because the authority of MHIC is limited to investigating whether the initial work was performed in a workmanlike manner. As you note, warranties are only as good as the company that issues them so if the business closes, most consumers are left without a way to enforce the warranty.

The Maryland Service Contracts and Consumer Products Guaranty Act requires that the following information be disclosed in the contract that provides the warranty: (1) the duration of the guaranty period measured by time; (2) any reasonable and necessary maintenance required as a condition for the performance of the guaranty; (3) a recital of the guarantor's obligations to the person guaranteed during the guaranty period; (4) the procedure which the person guaranteed should follow to obtain the repair or replacement of the malfunctioning or defective consumer product; and (5) any means established by the guarantor for quick informal settlement of any guaranty dispute. It is the duty of the guarantor to fully the guaranty according to its terms (a) within a reasonable time and (b) for the period stated in the guaranty or, if not period is stated, for a reasonable period of time.