DLLR Warns Against Hiring Unlicensed Contractors


Homeowners can avoid scam artists by verifying a contractor's licensing status

BALTIMORE (March 19, 2009) - Spring arrives tomorrow, which means many Maryland homeowners will soon be hiring contractors to perform home improvement work. Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation Secretary Thomas E. Perez reminds homeowners to check a contractor's licensing status and avoid being scammed by unlicensed contractors operating illegally.

"Scam artists abound in the home improvement industry, and they seek to take advantage of trusting homeowners who don't know their rights," Secretary Perez said. "In these times of economic distress, homeowners should be wary of unlicensed contractors offering deals that sound too good to be true, because they probably are."

Homeowners who use Maryland Home Improvement Commission (MHIC) licensed contractors are protected by the Home Improvement Law, and are eligible for coverage by the Home Improvement Guaranty Fund. The Guaranty Fund provides homeowners with up to $20,000 dollars for losses caused by poor or incomplete work by MHIC licensed contractors. However, if a homeowner hires an unlicensed contractor, they are not eligible for payment from the guaranty fund, and their only recourse is through the courts.

"We encounter far too many homeowners who have been the victims of unscrupulous individuals who take a homeowner's money and walk away without ever completing the work for which they've been paid," said Occupational and Professional Licensing Commissioner Stanley Botts. "Homeowners can protect themselves easily by hiring a licensed contractor."

Each year, MHIC investigates approximately 3,000 complaints against licensed and unlicensed contractors. In the last fiscal year, MHIC helped recover close to $2.5 million for homeowners who were cheated by unlicensed contractors. Acting as a contractor, subcontractor, or selling a home improvement without a license is a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, is subject to a fine up to $1,000 or imprisonment up to 30 days, or both. Each subsequent conviction is subject to a fine up to $5,000 or imprisonment up to 2 years, or both.

Consumers can check a contractor's license status and, and access other information and services from Maryland Home Improvement Commission, by calling 888-218-5925. They can also visit DLLR's Web site.