What Are Connecticut Contractors?
In Connecticut, a home improvement contractor is any person who contracts with homeowners to execute permanent improvement, repair, and alteration work on their residential properties. Per the provisions of the Connecticut Home Improvement Act, home improvement contractors must register with the state’s Department of Consumer Protection (DCP). There are currently more than 26,000 registered and active home improvement contractors in Connecticut.
Home improvement contractors who carry out skilled work such as electrical, plumbing, and HVAC work must obtain specialized licenses from the DCP. Note that this licensure differs from registration in the sense that licensure requires additional training, experience, and examination, while registration simply involves the documentation of the verified identities of persons and businesses legally offering a particular service in the state.
The Professional Boards and Committees of the DCP in Connecticut also enforces occupational registration and licensure on other professionals in the state. These professionals include, but are not limited, to accountants, architects, professional engineers, pharmacists, and solar energy workers. Similarly, the Connecticut Judicial Branch regulates the practice of law in the state and it supervises and admits qualified candidates into the state bar through the Connecticut Bar Examining Committee. Connecticut currently has over 21,000 active attorneys providing legal services to individuals, businesses, corporations, and the government across the various specialties of law.
Tips for Hiring a Contractor
Home improvement projects involve making substantial modifications to what may possibly be your most prized asset, which is your home. As such, it is your responsibility to ensure that only capable hands are engaged in such projects. Making an informed decision about hiring a contractor gives you fair value for your money and also ensures that the structural integrity of your home and the safety of members of your household are not compromised. The following tips will help you sift through the multitude of contractors in the state to make the best hire:
- Have a clear knowledge and understanding of the exact type of work you want to execute. It may be helpful to have pictures of similar projects to avoid a divergent understanding of the project idea and scope between you and the contractor.
- Engage all necessary professionals required for your project from the start to achieve a working synergy. For instance, a substantial restructuring project may require the services of an architect and so it is advisable to let the contractor and the architect work together from the start of the project.
- Hire a well-known contractor. This is possible by asking for contractor referrals from neighbors and relatives. You may also lookup contractors listed by recognized professional associations such as the National Association of Remodeling Industry (NARI) and the Connecticut Construction Industry Association (CCIA).
- Get written estimates from the contractors you have gotten by referral and ask to be pointed to projects similar to yours that they have completed recently. Estimates allow you to compare costs while visiting their past jobs affords you an in-person assessment and a chance to speak with their past clients.
- Verify each contractor's registration and licensure status with the DCP. It is also a good idea to research the contractors’ litigation histories online via the state judicial branch’s case look-up portal. This will help you avoid dealing with contractors who have been found guilty of professional misconduct and may be potentially problematic to work with.
- Request copies of the contractor’s liability and workers’ compensation insurance policies. Although the Connecticut Home Improvement Act does not mandate this requirement, in the event of a job-related accident or property damage, an insured contractor has financial coverage, absolving you of financial liabilities. You should verify a contractor’s claim of having valid insurance coverage by contacting the issuing companies.
- Get a written project contract that contains key information such as the contractor’s name, contact details, and registration information. It should also contain the project description, schedule, cost, and payment schedules, as well as detailed information on the quality of project supplies required and a notice of homeowner’s contract rights. This contract must be signed by both you and the contractor once the terms have been finalized.
- You must make sure to understand all contract terms and conditions before signing it. Hiring a qualified attorney to handle all the project’s legal aspects removes all possibilities of compromising your homeowner rights.
- Ensure that all necessary permits for your project are obtained. Although professional contractors generally know the procedures for quickly obtaining these permits, you are ultimately responsible for ensuring that all valid permits required for your project are obtained. As such, it is a good idea to contact your local building department to find out the permits that you may need for your project and make sure that your contractor obtains every single one
- Negotiate and agree on a reasonable payment arrangement with the contractor. While a downpayment may be required to get the project started, you should pay only what is necessary to start the project, which is typically not more than a third of the total cost. Subsequent payments should be made in tranches and should correspond to the level of the project’s progress.
- Make sure that the project has been completed to specification before completing payment. If your contractor issues a certificate of completion, do not accept or sign one without ensuring satisfactory job completion. For large projects, you should have a building inspector evaluate the work done before signing the final paycheck.
- Engage your attorney in the financing process, especially if the contractor is offering you financing options or recommending financing partners. This reduces the risk of entering into an exploitative contract that tricks you into signing away the ownership of your home.
Homeowners in Connecticut have three business days to cancel a home improvement contract they entered into. Note that Saturdays are regarded as legal business days in Connecticut. You may also ask for a payment refund if work is not started 30 days after the project start date, or where such is not specified in the contract, 30 days after signing a home improvement contract. If you do not receive a refund 10 days after making the request, you may institute administrative and criminal actions against the contractor. You can contact the Home Improvement Unit of the DCP at (860) 713-6110 or toll-free at 1-800-842-2649 to report erring contractors.
How to Search A Contractor's License in Connecticut?
General contractors in Connecticut are not required to carry a license but mandated to register their business with the state’s Department of Consumer Protection. However, specialty contractors like plumbers, HVAC contractors, electricians, sheet metal workers, and heating professionals are required to carry specific licenses.
To verify a contractor's license or registration in Colorado, perform a quick search on the License Lookup page on the State Government website. Users are allowed to search the database using one or multiple criteria including license type, license number, business name, contractor's name, and address. The penalty for contracting without the appropriate license in Connecticut is a fine of $1,000 on first violation.
How Much Does a Contractor Charge in
The kinds of work involved, the size and scope of the work, and subcontractor requirements determine the fees charged by home improvement contractors. On average, home improvement contractors in Connecticut charge between $35 - $50 per hour. The following are the estimated cost ranges for different categories of home improvement projects:
Hourly fees charged by specialized contractors are estimated below:
For the purpose of a project’s legal work supervision, attorneys in the state charge from $50 to $150 per hour. The exact fee generally depends on the attorney's years of experience, level of expertise, and reputation.
What Are Home Improvement
Scams in Connecticut?
Contractors commit home improvement scams when they use deceptive tactics and schemes to obtain money illegally from homeowners without providing the agreed service. The different tactics devised by dubious home improvement contractors include asking for a large cash down payment and not starting or completing the job, using materials that are below the agreed quality or grade, and intentionally doing shoddy work so that their services will be needed again soon. In the DCP’s annual report published in 2020, home improvement contractor complaints were the most received complaints from consumers in Connecticut.
The resulting impacts of these fraudulent contractor schemes will typically cost the affected homeowners a substantial amount of money and time to rectify. Therefore, it is best to take steps beforehand to forestall falling victim to these fraudulent practices. These steps are listed below:
- Work with only known registered or licensed contractors. A contractor’s lack of a verifiable business identity or license is a red flag that should not be ignored. A good practice would be to contact neighbors and family members for reputable contractor referrals.
- Be suspicious if a contractor keeps trying to rush you into making a decision or creates a false sense of urgency about a project. Dubious contractors typically use pressure tactics to force homeowners into making hasty decisions.
- Do not overlook work permits. Unscrupulous contractors try as much as possible to avoid dealing with regulatory agencies for fear of being found out. Enforcing the required work permits on such contractors discourages them from working with you.
- Avoid paying cash as much as possible. Instead, pay with a check or bank card, as this gives you leverage on the payment and ensures traceability of transactions. If you will be paying via check, make sure to write it in the name of the home improvement company or business. Unscrupulous contractors will usually ask to be paid into an account that can not be traced to them.
- Get a written project contract. This will serve as a good reference point whenever there is a problem during the project. Note that working with an unregistered or unlicensed contractor renders any home improvement contract null and void in Connecticut.
Homeowners can report dubious home improvement contractors to the DCP at (860) 713-6100, toll-free at (800) 842-2649, or via email. The DCP maintains a Home Improvement Guaranty Fund which settles homeowners for unpaid court judgments on fraudulent homeowners. This fund is financed from registered contractors’ annual assessments and can pay up to $15,000 to each affected homeowner. These homeowners can apply to access this fund online or by mailing a completed Application For Reimbursement Form to:
- Department of Consumer Protection
- Home Improvement Guaranty Fund
- 450 Columbus Boulevard
- Suite 901
- Hartford, CT 06103
Note that only homeowners who worked with registered contractors are eligible to access the Home Improvement Guaranty Fund.
What are Common Home Improvement Scams in Connecticut?
Older residents of Connecticut are the most vulnerable category of homeowners when it comes to home improvement scams. This is because they are easily trusting and feel too embarrassed to report that they have been scammed. However, homeowners who are aware of the most commonly perpetrated home improvement scams in Connecticut are usually able to easily detect and avoid them. Hence, for all categories of homeowners in the state, having adequate knowledge of the common home improvement scams is necessary to protect your money and your property from fraudulent contractors and con artists. These common scams are listed below:
- Door-to-door scams: This kind of home improvement scam is one of the most common in Connecticut. A home improvement contractor visits a homeowner with an offer to execute a home improvement project for a relatively large discount. The contractor may claim to have leftover supplies from a previous job that can be used to execute this project. Among other tactics, they claim that their good deal is a one-day offer, creating a sense of urgency and attempting to force the homeowner into making a snappy decision. At the end of the day, they either do shoddy work, abandon the job midway, or disappear with the advance payment. Although not all door-to-door contractors are out to commit home improvement scams, homeowners must exercise extra precaution when an itinerant contractor comes knocking on their doorstep.
- Chimney or Home Cleaning Scam: This type of scam involves homeowners receiving unsolicited calls from persons offering a good home or chimney cleaning deal. Once the homeowner agrees to work with them and they are allowed into the house, they claim to discover some repair needs in your home or chimney. Without allowing the homeowner enough time to verify their credentials, they go ahead and execute the said repair and ask for money afterward. Homeowners who agree to pay them will then discover later that they have done a poor job, used inferior materials, or did not in fact do any repair. Homeowners must therefore ensure that workers or contractors are not allowed to offer services that they were not hired for and reject any offers from them to provide services outside their advertised skill or trade.
Other common scam tactics include asking for an upfront payment that is more than what is required to get the job started with the intention to run away with it, insisting on cash and other means of payment that is not traceable, and refusing to offer written project paperwork such as a quote, warranty, or project contract. Even though there are no state laws stipulating the maximum amount of downpayment that a home improvement contractor can receive, it is generally recommended not to pay more than a third of the total cost of the project before any work commences. Moreso, reputable and financially responsible contractors will typically not need large down payments to get started on your project. Always insist on securing a written contract, even if the total cost of your project is not considered substantial. It is also a good idea to ensure that your contractors have a verified local business address and local telephone number.
In September 2019, the DCP released a press statement warning residents of the state about an unregistered contractor that had been accused of soliciting for jobs, collecting payments and then performing shoddy or incomplete work. This office advised homeowners to always work with licensed contractors and to avoid becoming victims of home improvement scams. If a contractor pressures you into making a payment or entering a home repair agreement, or if you suspect that your contractor is involved in any type of home improvement scam, you should file a complaint with the Home Improvement Unit of the DCP by calling (860) 713-6110 or 1-800-842-2649.
What are Disaster Scams in Connecticut?
Disaster scams occur when mischievous home improvement contractors take advantage of the typically high demand for home repair and improvement services after a disaster to defraud unsuspecting consumers. These contractors are usually aware that homeowners might have received money from home insurance claims and other charitable donations for repair work following the damages caused by the disaster. Common fraudulent practices include taking money without doing the job, using low-quality materials against the contract agreement in order to cut costs, and offering malicious financing options to affected homeowners. It is important that victims of disaster property damages take precautions before hiring a contractor for their repair jobs. Below are some helpful tips:
- Resist the urge to hire the contractor that shows up first in a bid to get the job completed as quickly as possible. While the urgency of a repair may be understood, homeowners must realize that dubious home improvement contractors offer quick and hugely discounted repair work. It is therefore advisable to hire from a pool of contractors and compare project quotes. A quote that is way lower than the rest is usually a red flag and homeowners should avoid working with such contractors.
- Hire only known and reputable local home improvement contractors. While it is common to have several out-of-state contractors offering home improvement services after a disaster, it is better and more reassuring to work with contractors that were referred by neighbors, relatives, and local home improvement contractors' directories such as the local NARI directory and the local CCIA directory.
- Ask for and verify the registration or licensure proof of all prospective contractors. It is never a good idea to deal with an unregistered or unlicensed contractor, and doing this also means that you may not be able to legally enforce any written project contract issued by this contractor.
- Request for valid identification from anyone who claims to be a government inspection officer. Never let these individuals into your home without contacting the agency they claim to represent about the authenticity of their claims. Also, do not give out personal information to these individuals.
- Involve your attorney if you are being offered a financing arrangement for the repair work. Regardless of whether the details of the financing offer are clear to you or not, it is always a good idea to involve a qualified attorney to completely eliminate the risk of entering into a dubious financing contract.
Homeowners who suspect or have fallen victim to disaster scams can file complaints with the state’s Attorney General Office online or by calling (860) 808-5318. Alternatively, complaints can also be filed with the DCP online or via phone at (860) 713-6300.
What are Common Legal
Work Scams in Connecticut?
Residents of Connecticut suffer legal work scams when they are cheated or defrauded while dealing with an attorney, or through other law-related circumstances that may involve non-attorneys, such as businessmen and real estate agents. These residents must therefore ensure to involve qualified and reputable attorneys whenever they have to deal with matters concerning the law. Some of the common legal work scams committed by dubious attorneys and non-attorneys in Connecticut include:
- Notarios or notary publics claiming that they can provide consumers with legal assistance on immigration services. This is usually common in Spanish-speaking communities. In Connecticut, only attorneys and accredited representatives of the Immigration Department are authorized to provide legal help with the typically complicated immigration process.
- Attorneys and other fraudulent third parties conniving to draw up fraudulent legal contracts for business and investment deals.
- Attorneys misrepresenting the status of a client’s account in order to commit financial frauds and other such vices for pecuniary gains
- Real estate and mortgage agents making use of malicious legal documents to illegally obtain money from unsuspecting clients.
The following precautionary steps will help residents of Connecticut avoid falling victim to legal work scams:
- Deal with only licensed and qualified attorneys. This is typically the first step towards avoiding legal work scams. Speak to professional colleagues or relatives about attorneys they have used in the past. You may also want to consider hiring attorneys who are bonafide members of the Connecticut Bar Association’s (CBA). You can verify an attorney’s membership of this association through its Find A Lawyerservice. You can also confirm the license of an attorney online via the state judiciary’s attorney look-up portal.
- Do a background search of an attorney by checking their legal profession disciplinary history.
- Understand the services an attorney is supposed to offer to you and make arrangements for regular updates on your cases.
- Request for and verify the reports on your accounts from your attorney at regular intervals.
The Connecticut Superior Court maintains a Client Security Fund to reimburse persons who have been cheated and scammed by dishonest attorneys admitted into the practice of law in the state. The Fund is financed by fees collected from attorneys, judges, and other qualified legal practitioners in Connecticut, and persons who have fallen victim to legal work scams in a typical attorney-client relationship may apply for reimbursement.
To report a case of an attorney-committed legal work scam, complete and mail a complaint form, to:
- Statewide Bar Counsel
- 287 Main Street,
- Suite 2, Second Floor
- East Hartford, CT 06118
This form can also be obtained at any Superior Courts Clerks’ Office in the state. Alternatively, legal work scams committed by non-attorneys can be reported to the state’s Attorney General’s Office either online or by calling (860) 808-5318.
How Long Does it Take to Get a License in
There is no specific timeline for processing license and registration applications made to the DCP. Generally, the type of license or registration being applied for, licensure and registration requirements, as well as the volume of applications the Department regularly handles will determine the time it will take to complete an application. Queries related to the procedures and duration for processing a contractor license or registration can be sent to the DCP via email.
How to Maintain your License in Connecticut
The Connecticut DCP allows contractors to make updates like name and address changes to their license and registration information. To report a name change, licensed and registered contractors should send an email to the DCP containing the current name, new name, license or registration type and number, email address, and a copy of a court document, marriage certificate, driver’s license, or any other official document reflecting the name change. Likewise, contractors may complete an address change online or by sending an email to the DCP containing the contractor’s name, license type or registration number, email address, currently registered address, and the new address.
Active attorneys in the state are required to complete and report a minimum of twelve credit hours of Continuing Legal Education (CLE) and at least two of the twelve credit hours must be in either ethics or professional or both. Connecticut attorneys can also change their registration information either online through the state judiciary’s E-Services portal or by completing and mailing a Change of Information Form to:
- Statewide Bar Counsel
- 287 Main Street
- Second Floor
- Suite 2
- East Hartford, CT 06118
Note that to report name changes, attorneys must use the mail-in form and attach legal proof of name change such as a marriage certificate, divorce decree, or any other government-issued document.
How to Renew Contractor License in
All contractor licenses and registrations in Connecticut expire annually on November 30th. The DCP notifies licensed and registered contractors through email or regular mail 30 to 45 days before the expiration of their licenses and registration. The renewal notice will typically contain instructions for renewal which may be done either by the Fast Track or regular User ID and Password method on the state’s electronic license management web portal. The license or registration renewal process costs $220 for each contractor license. License and registration renewals can also be done by sending an email containing the following information to the DCP:
- Contractor’s Name
- Type of license, registration, or permit
- License, registration, or permit number
- Valid email address
Contractors who do not receive a renewal notice will have to contact the DCP via email and provide the following information:
- The contractor’s Name
- The type of license, registration, or permit
- The contractor’s license, registration, or permit number
- A valid email address
- An indication of the login information that is being requested. This is either a User ID and Password or Fast Track Renewal PIN
Similarly, active attorneys in Connecticut must complete an annual registration process online. There are no fees associated with this registration process and the attorneys are generally required to provide key information such as their office and residential addresses as well as clients’ trust account identification information.