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What Are Maryland Contractors?

The Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing regulates and issues work licenses to over 255,000 professionals across 25 professions in the State of Maryland. Under this division, the licensure, regulation, and supervisory oversight of home improvement contractors and salespersons is handled by the Maryland Home Improvement Commission (MHIC). Home improvement contractors are defined as professionals who undertake the remodeling, replacement, and repair of residential properties. On the other hand, home improvement salespersons help market home improvement contractors market their services and solicit for clients. These salespersons are permitted to represent not more than two home improvement contractors. The MHIC also requires home improvement salespersons to have employment or contractual agreements with licensed contractors before they can apply for a salesperson license.

Individuals that wish to obtain contractor licenses in Maryland are required to have a minimum of two years of verifiable work experience in construction, home improvement, or related education in these fields. Other requirements include providing adequate proof of financial solvency, submitting a certificate of trade name registration, providing proof of a current liability insurance policy for up to $50,000, and passing relevant licensing exams.

The MHIC is empowered to entertain complaints from consumers concerning home improvement contractors’ malpractices, enforce Maryland home improvement laws and regulations, and award financial damages where necessary. The Commission not only warns consumers against hiring unlicensed contractors; it actively enforces the Home Improvement Law and prosecutes violators in the state.

Besides home improvement contractors and salespersons, many other professions are issued work licenses by the Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing in Maryland, such as architects, cosmetologists, foresters, and land surveyors. Likewise, the Maryland Judiciary is responsible for the licenses and regulation of the more than 40,000 actively practicing attorneys in the state.

Tips for Hiring a Contractor
in Maryland

Home improvement expenditure does not come cheap. However, hiring unlicensed contractors either as a way to save costs or for any other reason disqualifies you from accessing an MHIC-administered Guaranty Fund that is used to reimburse homeowners for losses and damages arising from defective services or default by licensed contractors. This is one of the reasons why the importance of hiring a licensed contractor cannot be overstated. Note that it is not always enough to simply look for a licensed contractor. Consumers must take additional precautionary steps, which include:

  • Verifying the license status of the contractor
  • Seeking proof of insurance
  • Checking whether or not the contractor has a pending customer complaint case by calling (410) 230-6309 or (888) 218-5925
  • Requesting references from a contractor
  • Asking if the contractor is certified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to carry out work involving the use of and contact with lead paint, if applicable
  • Refraining from paying a down payment that is more than a third of the cost of the work
  • Asking to see the applicable building permits before the work commences

The MHIC makes it mandatory for home improvement contracts to be prepared for every home improvement job in the state. In addition to the contract being written legibly, it must also contain the following:

  • A description of each incorporated document
  • Signatures of both parties to the contract - the homeowner and the contractor
  • A description of the project(s) to be undertaken, project materials, and the agreed-upon total cost of the project
  • A statement of project commencement and expected completion date.
  • The name, business location, and MHIC license number of the contractor, salesperson, or both where applicable.
  • The official phone number and website of the MHIC, and a statement that every Maryland home improvement contractor must hold a valid license that can be verified by any interested member of the public.
  • A notice that the MHIC maintains a Guaranty Fund, which provides coverage for homeowner losses caused by licensed contractors
  • A statement that homeowners can procure a performance bond for extra protection and against damages and losses not catered for by the Guaranty Fund.
  • Additional information stating that the contract creates a lien or mortgage against the homeowner’s property to obtain payment and that failure to pay the agreed amount may result in loss of the property if a loan funds the project

Before signing any contract, the homeowner should find out if it contains an arbitration clause. This arbitration clause must include the arbitrator’s identity, arbitration fee schedule, if any, and a declaration that any claim against the MHIC’s Guaranty Fund must be put on hold until arbitration proceedings are completed.

As a homeowner, it is important to understand the content of a contract before appending your signature to it. As such, it is advisable to retain the services of a qualified attorney to prevent you from compromising some of your homeowners’ rights. Also, remember that you reserve the right to withdraw your agreement to a contract in writing within three working days of initially signing it.

How to Search A Contractor's License in Maryland?

General contractors in Maryland may or may not require a state-issued license depending on the type of work the professional does. Contractors building new homes do not need a state license but would have to register with the Home Builder Registration Unit of the Office of the Attorney General. However, home improvement contractors in Maryland are mandated to obtain a license from the Maryland Home Improvement Commission (MHIC) under the Department of Labor. You can verify the license of your home improvement contractor online at MHIC website. A quick query can be made using the contractor's name, trade name, location or license number.

Also, subcontractors and specialty contractors including plumbers, electricians, and HVAC-R technicians are also required to hold a state-level license issued by the Maryland Department of Labor. The licenses of these contractors can also be verified on the MHIC website. For other trades, check with your city or county authority to verify the status of the contractor's license.

Contracting without a license in Maryland is a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and a 30-day jail time. Fine for subsequent violation may go as high as $5,000 with a two-year jail time.

How Much Does a Contractor Charge in

The fee a contractor charges largely depends on the type and scale of work at hand. Other factors that affect contractor fees include distance and location of worksite, paid permit requirement, and relative cost of living in your locality. Home improvement contractors generally charge about $50 - $150 hourly, while some others charge a percentage of the total project cost, ranging between 10% - 20%. Below are average hourly fee rates for contractors in Maryland:

$40 - $80
$80 - $120
Flooring Contractors
$50 - $75
HVAC Contractors
$80 - $120
Landscaping Contractors
$50 - $110
$45 - $80
Plumbing Contractors
$80 - $120
Roofing Contractors
$60 - $100

Some cost estimates for common home improvement projects in Maryland include:

Home remodeling
$4,600 - $9,200
Bathroom remodeling
$1,000 - $2,000
Kitchen remodelling
$2,300 - $4,600
Drywall installation
$170 - $340
Brick or Stonewall installation
$450 - $900
$700 - $1,400
Garage building
$2,650 - $5,300
Concrete Patio Installation
$400 - $800
Fence installation
$300 - $600

For projects that require the services of a qualified attorney, attorney fees will normally depend on the experience and expertise of an attorney and the type of case involved. The average hourly rate for attorneys in Maryland is between $250 - $400.

What Are Home Improvement
Scams in Maryland?

Home improvement scams are the dubious practices employed by mischievous contractors. These practices include running off with the down payment, using inferior materials, violating work standards, and deliberately doing a poor job so that you will have to request the services of the contractor again in a short time. With over 52,000 home repair, improvement, and products scams reported nationwide in 2020, it is important to take precautionary measures to forestall becoming a victim of these scams:

  • Ask for an MHIC license and verify its validity online or call (888)-218-5925
  • Request to see an original certificate of a current general liability insurance
  • Ask for local references, visit past job sites and speak to past clients about on-time and to-budget project completion and whether they would hire the contractor again. Get at least two bids.
  • If the contractor is working in your home, ask for a copy of a valid workers’ compensation insurance.
  • Be wary of sweet deals. If you see that a deal is too good to be true, do not take it.
  • Hire an attorney to help you review any contract you do not clearly understand
  • Keep all documents relating to the project safely. This includes proof of payments and copies of signed contracts

It is vital to take all these measures seriously to prevent a scam, especially because these dubious contractors are usually transient and difficult to track down. Even when they are successfully arrested, prosecuted, and have a claim judgment awarded against them in favor of a homeowner, they are usually unable to make proper restitution.

Professional License Search

What are Common Home Improvement Scams in Maryland?

Although anyone can fall victim to home improvement scams, older people are the main targets of home improvement scammers. This is because seniors are believed to be more docile and trusting, more likely to have a house and a good credit record, and also the least likely to report the scam due to embarrassment. Some of the most common techniques used by home improvement scammers in Maryland include:

  • Neighborhood contracting: Transient workers knock on homeowner’s doors claiming to be working in the neighborhood and offering to fix your roof or pave your driveway for a discounted fee. These contractors may claim to have leftover materials from a recently completed job. They may also tell you that the offer is only valid for that day and they typically ask to be paid in cash.
  • Woodchucking: This technique involves home improvement scammers known as “woodchucks” going around without a license and offering to help with tree trimming and basic landscaping jobs. They will eventually claim to have found damage on your roof, gutters, or sidings and try to talk you into hiring them to repair the damage. This type of scam mostly targets older people who can not verify these claims.
  • Storm chasing: This technique involves scammers that direct their attention to areas where there have been property damages caused by high winds, hail, and rain. These scammers focus on these areas with the knowledge that insurance companies typically award claims for these damages. They prey on unattentive homeowners that just want to have their repairs done quickly.
  • Agreement to agree: An “agreement to agree” is a commonly used home improvement service arrangement where a contractor offers to help the homeowner negotiate with the insurance company for a claim. If the insurance company agrees to pay the claim, the “agreement to agree” arrangement mandates the homeowner to hire that contractor, even if they find a cheaper repairer or change their mind about wanting a repair. However, home improvement scammers use this arrangement to try to bypass the mandatory written contract requirement.

Always remember that it is against Home Improvement Law for a contractor to ask for more than one-third of the total project cost as advance payment. This is usually an indication of contractor insolvency and impending fraud. Also, it is considered a criminal offense for contractors to undertake home improvement projects without a relevant and valid license. Homeowners are allowed to lodge complaints with the MHIC about home improvement contractors in the state and also report unlicensed home improvement work to it. It is estimated that the MHIC appears in court approximately 75 times every month in trials against unlicensed and fraudulent contractors. One of such cases involves the 2020 filing of charges against Upchurch Building Concepts by the Maryland Attorney General’s Office for accepting payment for home improvement work without a valid license, failing to provide these services, and failing to refund payments to the consumers involved.

What are Disaster Scams in Maryland?

After a property-damaging disaster like a fire, a storm, or floods, unscrupulous contractors target victims of these disasters to scam them out of their insurance claims by offering inferior services and materials. They take advantage of the fact that these homeowners are too traumatized or distraught to pay proper attention. Below are helpful tips to avoiding getting scammed by a home improvement contractor after a disaster:

  • Be wary of individuals offering immediate removal of debris and complete clean-up services
  • Ask for identification cards, proof of licensure, and insurance
  • Always remember that it is better to hire from a pool of contractors after comparing prices and qualifications
  • Protect your personally identifiable information
  • Avoid making payments by wire transfer, cash, or gift cards
  • Never pay more than a third of the cost of the work as a down payment
  • Do not complete payment until your work has been satisfactorily completed

You can lodge complaints about disaster scams carried out by home improvement contractors by contacting the MHIC at:

  • 500 North Calvert Street
  • Room 306
  • Baltimore, MD 21202

Alternatively, you can call the MHIC at (410) 230-6309 or (888) 218-5925 to request that a copy of a complaint form be mailed to you.

What are Common Legal
Work Scams in Maryland?

Legal scams are scam schemes perpetrated by attorneys or imposters, usually pretending to be representing a client’s interest. They are deliberate acts aimed at ridding unsuspecting persons of their possession and wealth. In Maryland, attorneys that perpetuate legal work scams can face career-crippling penalties such as reprimands, suspensions, disbarment, and possible jail time. Similarly, non-attorneys can also face penalties like fines and jail terms, depending on the severity of the offense. Some unethical behavior to watch out for when dealing with attorneys or in general legal matters include:

  • Failure of an attorney to maintain clients’ trust fund by diverting it for personal use or embezzlement
  • Deliberately misleading and refusing to update clients on their cases
  • Involvement in mail and wire scams against clients

The following measures can keep you safe from falling victim to general legal work scam in Maryland:

  • Obtain clear information on what exactly an attorney is supposed to do for you and the costs involved
  • Ensure that your attorney regularly updates you on your legal matters.
  • Avoid attorneys that attempt to persuade you into making very specific financial decisions like transferring your assets and funds to a particular institution
  • Never wire money to unknown parties

As part of its efforts against legal work scams carried out by attorneys, the Maryland Judiciary has set up a Client Protection Fund to reimburse clients whose funds have been stolen and mismanaged by her members. This move is aimed at maintaining the prestige and integrity of legal practitioners. Attorneys who fail to pay the annual fund assessment are liable for suspension. The Maryland Judiciary also encourages residents of the state to file complaints against attorneys who exhibit professional misconduct or for other similar reasons. The attorney complaint form can be mailed to:

  • Office of Bar Counsel
  • 200 Harry S. Truman Parkway
  • Suite 300
  • Annapolis, MD 21401

Consumers can also report legal work scams online or by mail to the state’s Attorney General’s Office.

How Long Does it Take to Get a License in

Typically, a home improvement contractor license application in Maryland takes two to three weeks to process. Submitting incomplete documents or the wrong application process inevitably prolongs the application period. Individuals who wish to obtain a Maryland Home Improvement Commission’s (MHIC) contractor or salesperson license will be required to first pass the licensure exam, after which they receive a license application package.

Applying for a license involves the payment of the application fee and having a relevant financial institution process the payment check. After the check is cleared, the application is sent to the MHIC for review. The MHIC typically reviews applications within five days of receiving them. However, this may take longer depending on the volume of the application being handled at the time. Once the application is found to be complete, it will be reviewed two times, and then approved by a licensing supervisor. Candidates whose applications have been approved will have their information uploaded onto the MHIC’s licensing database, and they generally receive a paper license within ten days of this approval.

The MHIC organizes a free workshop on the third Thursday of each odd-numbered month at 2:00 p.m. for persons that are interested in gathering more information about the requirements and process of licensure. The workshop takes place at:

  • 500 N Calvert Street
  • Baltimore, MD 21202

How to Maintain your License in Maryland

License modifications such as a change in the licensee's name, a change in business address, and a change in ownership or management can be updated online. However, licensees must visit the MHIC in person to carry out a change in trade name or entity type. Licensees must serve a notice of change in address or ownership of a business to the MHIC’s executive director within ten days of such change. The MHIC must also have legal evidence of a change of name before this can be reflected in its database. To get a new license reflecting a change in contact information, contractors will have to submit their current licenses, proof of a name change, and an insurance certificate showing the change. Finally, licensees are also required to pay a $150 fee on a bi-annual basis to contribute to the MHIC’s Guaranty Fund.

For attorneys in Maryland, there are compliance requirements to be met in order to maintain their license to practice law, and they include:

  • Registration and maintenance of up-to-date information in the Attorney Information System (AIS). Updates and review of contact information are required to be done within 30 days.
  • Pay the yearly Client Protection Fund Assessment.
  • Carry out yearly pro bono service reporting as required by Maryland Courts Rule 19-503
  • Complete the yearly summary report on the amount of interests on clients’ accounts, known as Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts (IOLTA)

Failure to complete any of the above in time may result in temporary suspension or decertification.

How to Renew Contractor License in

The professional licenses of home improvement contractors in Maryland are usually valid for two years before a renewal is required. Notice of license expiry and renewal directives are typically sent to contractors around 60 days before the expiration date on their licenses. Contractors are required to contact the commission if they fail to receive a license renewal notification within 30 days of their license expiration. Renewals are done online and applicable fees are usually paid via credit card.

Alternatively, a contractor may fax a hardcopy renewal form request to (410) 962-8482 and then return the completed form along with a money order or check made payable to the Maryland Home Improvement Commission at:

  • Maryland Home Improvement Commission
  • 500 North Calvert Street
  • 3rd Floor
  • Baltimore, MD 21202

On the other hand, attorneys in Maryland do not need to explicitly renew their license to practice the law, as long as they maintain the conditions of continued eligibility to practice law. This includes paying annual client protection fund assessment dues and reporting annually on IOLTA accounts and pro bono activity. However, active members of the United States Court of the District of Maryland are required to renew their membership after every six years. The court only accepts renewal applications online, and members have to pay a $75 renewal fee. Note that this is a federal court.

Cities in Maryland