Licensed Contractors: Why Is a License Important?

All states require licensing for its building contractors. These laws have been passed to protect property owners from incompetent or dishonest contractors. The licensing process tests basic competency as well as ways to screen out dishonest contractors. A valid license is the first indication that your contractor might be qualified to do the job.

Another good reason to use a licensed contractor is to take advantage of a state's dispute resolution program and any state funds available to help resolve disputes and compensate property owners. To take full advantage of such a program, check that your contractor has a current license for all the work he proposes to do.

State Requirements for Licensing

Each state has its own licensing board with its own requirements for licensing contractors. State laws differ on both the requirements for getting a license and the type of license that is needed for a particular job.

Licenses for General Contractors

There are different licenses required for different aspects of construction projects. The person who deals directly with you as the property owner is the general contractor. This person works with you, oversees the project, purchases many of the materials needed, and hires subcontractors (contractors who work for the general contractor and not directly for you). The license for a general contractor does not authorize him to do all the jobs in the construction project. So, be sure you know what a general contractor's license covers in your state.

Other Licenses

Most states offer a variety of special contractor licenses to cover specific jobs. To obtain a special license, a contractor must show competency in a specific area such as electrical work, roofing, or plumbing. If a general contractor doesn't have the necessary special license to do part of a project, he must hire a subcontractor with that particular license to perform the work.

You should always stay as informed as possible with all aspects of your construction project. Mistakes that are caught early are much less expensive to fix. It is also worh checking that all the contractors working on your project have the required state licenses.

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