Frequently Asked Questions
Risks associated with unlicensed contractors
- Does your building or remodeling budget include health care costs?
If an unlicensed contractor or employee is hurt while working at your home, you are liable for any injuries. This means that you are responsible for the expenses related to emergency care, hospitalization, rehabilitation, and other services.
Contractors who are builders association members carry their own liability insurance.
- Are you prepared to fix your contractor’s mistakes?
If the work of an unlicensed contractor at your home is deemed unsafe or does not meet code, correcting the problem is your responsibility. This can not only endanger your family’s safety; it means that you must fix the problem before selling the home. When contractors are builders association members, their work is formally inspected by local government inspectors.
- Are you prepared to fix a home you no longer own?
Unlicensed contractors do not have to abide by Minnesota’s 10-year warranty law on the work they perform. Even if you’ve sold the home, you are responsible for any problems resulting from the work of unlicensed contractors for up to 10 years. Licensed contractors, by law, provide a 10-year warranty on all of their work.
- Can a contractor really run away with your money?
If you are the victim of a scam artist posing as a contractor, he or she may never return to the job after receiving your down payment. Builders association members are professional licensed contractors who live in and have ties to your community.
Warning signs to help spot unlicensed contractors
You may be talking with an unlicensed contractor if he or she:
- Asks you to get the building or remodeling permit. If your name is on the permit, you are liable for any job-related injuries or items that do not pass inspection.
- Doesn’t have a license number on his or her business card, truck, forms, advertising, etc.
- Can’t provide references from other clients.
- Requests a down payment without a written contract.
VBA contractors are licensed, trustworthy professionals. They get their own permits, have license numbers and references, and provide you with written contracts.
Questions to ask before hiring a contractor for your building or remodeling project
- How long have you been a contractor?
- Do you have references?
- Do you have liability insurance?
- Have any complaints been filed against you?
- What is your role in the company? Will you be my contact on this project or will it be someone else?
- Do you participate in a local trade association (e.g., VBA)?
- Are you involved in any local civic organizations (e.g., chamber of commerce)?
Your building or remodeling project is important. You want the highest quality product, which you can only expect from licensed contractors. Talk to prospective contractors to find the person who is right for your project. And turn to VBA for recommended licensed contractors in your area.
Know Your Rights!
In 1991, the State of Minnesota adopted a statewide residential contractor and remodeler license law. This law is designed to protect the consumer by requiring contractors to be state licensed. Contractors must apply to the Minnesota Department of Commerce, pass an exam, show proof of insurance, and pay into the contractors’ recovery fund. To maintain the license, the licensee is also required to complete seven hours of continuing education per year. The law gives homeowners reasonable assurance that they are dealing with a reputable, professional contractor, and a place to call to get general contractor information. 1-800-657-3978
Getting Information on a Contractor
Contractors (with few exceptions) who contract with a homeowner to perform home construction, remodeling, or repair must be licensed with the Minnesota Department of Commerce. Homeowners can call the Commerce Department Licensing Division at (800) 657-3978 to obtain information on a specific contractor. Contractors must display their license number in any advertising they do and they must make it available to you, the consumer. Building permits cannot be granted to contractors who are not properly state licensed.
My Rights if I Hire a Non-Licensed Contractor
If your contractor is required to be state licensed and you find that he is not, you may still have recourse under the law. Generally the law provides that a contractor who is working in violation of the state license law has no lien rights under Minnesota law and may not be able to enforce a contract signed with the homeowner in court. In any case, if you find yourself in this situation you should immediately consult with an attorney to get sound legal advice. You should never knowingly hire someone who is deliberately violating the state license law.
Obtaining My Own Permits and Doing Work on My Own?
Can you do this? Yes, absolutely. The license law was written to ensure a reasonable degree of protection for you as the consumer of construction services, not to discourage homeowners from doing work on their own property.