Maryland Contractor License Search

What You Should Know about Hiring a Contractor in Maryland

There are more than 255,000 licensed contractors across 25 professions in Maryland available for hire at a moment's notice. It is smart to ensure a licensed contractor handles your project, as doing this will guarantee an adequately completed job according to local codes and industry standards. Also, working with a licensed contractor will save you from unforeseen liabilities like work-related injuries, damages, and uncompleted work. A licensed contractor must carry bond and insurance plans covering such possible losses. In addition, ensuring your contractor is properly licensed will save you from hiring individuals like the following:

  • Fraudulent contractors who may run away with your money without doing the job.
  • Deceitful contractors who may compromise your family's safety.

Besides verifying your contractor's license, you should also consider the following factors when hiring a contractor in Maryland:

Who Is a Contractor in Maryland?

Contractors are individuals and businesses that offer services based on a written or oral agreement. To work in Maryland, contractors must obtain a license from the state's Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (DLLR). General contractors may have to apply for a license from the Maryland Home Improvement Commission. Contractors in Maryland are normally divided into two categories:

  • General Contractors: construction and home or property renovation projects are planned and supervised by general contractors. These contractors serve as the primary point of contact for the project owner and coordinate the efforts of specialty contractors working on these projects. In Maryland, general contractors dealing with home improvement work will need to meet the licensing requirements of the Maryland Home Improvement Commission (MHIC).
  • Specialty Contractors: plumbing, electrical, HVAC (heating, cooling, ventilation, and air conditioning), painting, masonry, and roofing are just a few of the specialized tasks these professionals can handle. Usually, a general contractor will choose specialty contractors to complete a particular task or provide a certain service associated with the construction project. However, on jobs involving one project, you can directly collaborate with a specialty contractor. The DLLR in Maryland regulates specialty contractors.

How to Search for a Contractor's License in Maryland

You can check a potential Maryland contractor's profile to see if they currently hold a license using the Uhire professional licensing search, which offers a thorough search option for all types of contractors. Alternatively, you can search for state-licensed contractors using the Maryland Department of Labor Home Improvement Public Query platform.

Penalty for Hiring a Contractor Without a License in Maryland

The criminal penalties for failing to comply with Maryland's license requirements can be severe; a violator may be charged with a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, face a fine of up to $1,000 or a term of imprisonment of up to six months.

Although it is not illegal to hire an unlicensed contractor, doing so has a number of disadvantages, including the following:

  • Contractors cannot get the necessary authorization from neighborhood building authorities without a license. Executing projects without the proper approval might lead to financial penalties and a decrease in the value of your home.
  • These contractors most likely don't carry bonds or insurance. This means that you will be responsible for any accidents or property damage that might happen throughout the project.
  • Hiring uneducated and inexperienced contractors increases the likelihood of receiving subpar work.

How Much Does a Contractor Charge in Maryland?

The difficulty and labor requirements of the projects for which specialty contractors are hired typically affect their pricing. That being said, specialty contractors often charge between $50 and $200 per hour.

The most common specialty contractors in Maryland are listed in the table below, along with their typical hourly rates; however, consider that actual charges may vary depending on your region and the reputation of the contractor in your area:

$83 - $100
$70 - $80
HVACR Technicians
$50 - $150
$35 - $70
$35 - $75
$55 - $100
Flooring Contractors
$40 - $80
$45 - $60
$50 - $95
$75 - $200
Interior Designers
$65 - $185
Excavation Contractors
$110 - $230
Concrete Contractors
$60 - $110
$50 - $65
Appliance Repair Technicians
$60 - $90
$40 - $95
Cleaning Services
$50 - $100
$45 - $150

More than one specialty contractor is often needed for a residential or commercial project. Thus, it makes sense to engage a general contractor to oversee the entire project to save time, money, and the burden of coordinating several subcontractors. It's important to remember that the project's total cost frequently determines the general contractor's fees. This amount, which accounts for 10% to 20% of the project's total cost, is often determined using one of the techniques listed below:

  • Fixed Price Method: in this case, the contractor agrees to complete the work in exchange for a specific sum. This method works best for projects with a defined scope and finish date.
  • Cost Plus Fee Method: in this case, the contractor adds a markup to all services provided in addition to the actual work completed on the project. When managing significant projects with undefined deadlines, this method is preferred. Nevertheless, to prevent costs from increasing sharply, it is wise to insist on a set maximum price.

In Maryland, you should pay between $130 and $250 per square foot for construction and home remodeling projects. The following elements may have an impact on final costs:

  • Labor, permits, and additional fees
  • The cost of hiring contractors to provide necessary services
  • The project site conditions
  • The cost of essential supplies and their availability
  • The project's nature and scope
  • The position and credentials of employed contractors

Tips for Hiring a Contractor in Maryland

It is essential to ensure that the contractors you select are qualified to fulfill their assigned tasks given the amount of money that is normally involved in the design, improvement, installation, maintenance, and repair of a home and its fixtures. Understanding the project's scope and identifying the kinds of contractors required are the initial steps in doing this. Consequently, before hiring any contractors in Maryland, you should consider the following tips:

  • Except in cases where there are no state licenses, you should always hire a state-licensed contractor. You can check the status of your contractor's license online.
  • Request and compare up to three contractor estimates for your projects.
  • Request and check the references of each bidder.
  • Before starting any work, insist on getting a signed contract stating all the project requirements and responsibilities. Before reaching an agreement, ensure you have read and understood the deal.
  • Verify the insurance and bonding of the contractor and any relevant subcontractors.
  • Never pay the total cost of a project upfront, and never pay more than $1,000 (or 10% of the total project cost) in advance for home remodeling jobs.
  • Before making the final payment, ensure the work has been done to your satisfaction.
  • Avoid paying with cash.
  • Keep copies of any documents pertaining to the project, including contracts, warranties, and invoices.

Is Your Contractor Insured and Bonded as Required by Maryland Statutes?

For home repair projects in Maryland, the Maryland Home Improvement Commission typically requires general liability insurance of $50,000 and surety bonds of at least $30,000. Additionally, Maryland contractors who have employees must obtain workers' compensation insurance from any licensed insurance company.

To safeguard yourself financially and legally from unanticipated events like bodily harm, unexpected property damage, and contractor errors that may arise during your project, you should ask whether your potential contractors are appropriately insured and bonded.

Keep in mind the various protections provided by bonds and insurance. Both the project owner and the contractor are typically insured, shielding the former from having to pay out-of-pocket expenses associated with accidents and injuries. Bonds serve primarily to shield project owners from liability for any damage caused by the contractor's failure to complete the work as agreed.

Always request proof of a contractor's insurance and bonding before hiring them. Ensure that their general liability insurance covers the scope of your project. You can do this by asking for a copy of their insurance and bond certificates and checking them by contacting the issuers. Contact the Maryland Insurance Administration at (800) 492-6116 for more information on contractors' insurance.

Top Contractor Scams in Maryland

Contractor scams are not unheard of in Maryland. Around 1 out of every 10,000 homeowners fall victim to these scams every year. While that may fall below the national average, it is important to prevent falling victim to any contractor scam. Knowing how these fraudulent contractors operate is one of the best ways to avoid them.

Shady contractors routinely employ the following methods to scam Maryland homeowners:

  • Going door-to-door offering discounted work
  • Delivering free home inspections and "discovering" issues that need to be handled immediately
  • Reducing the importance of formal contracts
  • Providing contracts with vague language or holes that can be filled in later
  • Increasing the project's needs and expenses
  • Pressing on cash and demanding full or sizable advance payments,
  • Forcing homeowners into signing up for services or spending excessive amounts of money on them without assessing their relevance to the project

To prevent these scams, take the following steps before hiring contractors:

  • Always check on prospective contractors thoroughly. Ask for contracts, read them carefully before you sign, and contact references to determine if the contractors are legally insured and bonded. You might also look up their reputation online.
  • Always work with licensed contractors.
  • Avoid hiring unsolicited contractors or accepting remodeling quotes you didn't ask for.
  • Avoid paying with cash.
  • Do not spend more than $1,000 (or 10% of the overall project cost) as a down payment.
  • Never put your signature on anything you do not fully comprehend.
  • Obtain and compare price quotations from several contractors for your project.
  • You should ask your general contractor and any associated subcontractors to release any liens.

How to Report Fraudulent Maryland Contractors

Depending on the circumstances, Maryland has several agencies through which you can report contractor fraud and pursue legal action against dishonest contractors.

Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation

You can file a complaint with the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (DLLR) if you engage contractors who are not licensed, do not have sufficient workers' compensation insurance, use deceptive advertising, or underpay their staff. This organization can also receive complaints about authorized contractors.

Office of the Attorney General of Maryland

Any instances of unfinished work, outrageous costs, or dishonest business practices resulting in monetary loss or theft should be reported to the Maryland Attorney General's Office. You can also consider contacting the local District Attorney's Office.

Small Claims Court

If a contractor has violated the terms of a written contract, you might choose to file a small claims lawsuit against them. Notably, the maximum value of a lawsuit in a small claims court is $5,000. Nevertheless, before doing this, it is best to alert the local District Attorney's Office and the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation of the issue.

Better Business Bureau (BBB)

A dishonest contractor may also be reported to the local Better Business Bureau chapter. The BBB encourages locals to report fraud, voice complaints about service providers, share their experiences working with businesses and warn others against deceptive advertising.

The Police Department:

If the contractor has physically threatened or stolen from you, you are strongly advised to report them to the local police station first.

Cities in Maryland