What Are Delaware Contractors?
The Delaware Division of Professional Regulation (DPR) regulates over 50 professions and trades in the state, including electricians, home inspectors, and landscape architects, and provides over 200 classes of occupational licenses and permits through its various occupational boards. This agency processes and approves more than 11,000 license applications and renews at least 30,000 more annually.
Per the Delaware State Code, contractors in the state are persons that are involved in the business of providing labor, materials, or both, for the purpose of constructing, altering, repairing or demolishing buildings and all other types of structure in a bid to improve, alter or develop real property. However, with the exception of electrical, plumbing, and HVACR (Heating Ventilation, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration) contractors, home improvement contractors are not required to obtain state-level professional licenses. Nevertheless, these contractors are required to obtain state-issued business licenses from the Delaware Division of Revenue. Also, certain counties and cities impose additional local-level licensure on home improvement contractors.
On the other hand, the statewide practice of law in Delaware is overseen by the Courts of Delaware through boards and offices like its Board of Bar Examiners and its Office of Disciplinary Counsel. It is estimated that there are currently over 4,200 licensed attorneys in the state.
Tips for Hiring a Contractor
Whether it is to remodel their homes or to repair property damages, homeowners spend a substantial amount of money on home improvement projects and therefore need to take precautions in hiring for these projects. Aside from the financial loss that comes with hiring the wrong contractor, homeowners may suffer further property damage due to poor or shoddy workmanship. The following tips can help homeowners navigate the complexities of hiring a home improvement contractor:
- Seek professional advice on the type of work your home requires and the kind of home improvement contractors to hire.
- Hire based on referrals from family, friends, and trusted colleagues. It would also be a good idea to hire from the local home builders association in your locality.
- Interview at least three contractors who have worked on a similar project. Ask for references on these past projects, and make sure to contact the contractors' past clients to ask about their work ethics, professionalism, fees, satisfaction with finished work, and their willingness to hire the contractor in the future.
- Verify contractors’ business licenses online via the Division of Revenue. For electrical, plumbing, and HVACR contractors, license verification must be done via the Division of Professional Regulation. Also, ensure you make inquiries at the local building regulatory agency about whether local licensure applies to home improvement contractors or not.
- Secure financial coverage against liabilities by asking for proof of bonding and liability insurance. Surety bonding protects your project from contractors' service defaults, while liability insurance provides coverage for property damages and physical injuries that may occur during your project.
- Get documentation for your projects, such as written quotes and project contracts. A home improvement contract must include information such as the contractor’s name, business address, license number, project cost, payment schedule, proposed start and estimated completion dates, details of subcontractors, material suppliers, and warranties.
- Preserve your right to cancel the contract. According to the Delaware Home Solicitation Act, a home solicitation sale contract must contain a notification stating that a homeowner retains the right to cancel a contract already entered into until midnight of the third business day after signing such a contract.
- Remember, a contract is a legally binding document. As such, it is advisable to hire an attorney to review the contract’s fine print before signing it.
- Ensure to make payments in a manner that is only commensurate with the level of the project's progress. While it is not uncommon for a contractor to ask for a down payment, only pay what will be just enough to get the project started.
Homeowners are advised to try and settle problems and issues amicably with their contractors. In a situation where erring contractors refuse to make amends, homeowners can lodge complaints against such contractors with the Department of Professional Regulation (DPR). The DPR typically updates consumers on the progress of their complaints every 90 days. However, complainants may check the status of their complaints by calling (302) 744-4500 or by sending an inquiry email.
How to Search A Contractor's License in Delaware?
In Delaware, specialty contractors like plumbers, electricians, home inspectors, and HVACRs are required to hold specific state-level licenses; general contractors are only mandated to register their businesses with the Division of Revenue before contracting. Licenses for these specialty trades are provided by the Delaware Department of Professional Regulation (DPR). However, many local governments in Delaware have additional provision for licensure or registration to practice in the city.
If you have hired a specialty contractor in Delaware, you can check the professional's license status on the DPR's License Look-Up webpage. A quick search can be performed using the contractor's name, city, profession, or license number. Also contact the municipal authority, to find out if your contractor's license or registration is up-to-date to practice in your city.
Contractors who fail to comply with the licensing requirements in the State of Delaware are liable to pay a fine up to $10,000. For municipalities with additional or separate licensing requirements, fines and penalties for contracting without a license are established appropriately. Contact your municipal authority to determine the penalty for contracting without a license in your city.
How Much Does a Contractor Charge in
The cost of hiring a home improvement contractor in Delaware depends on factors such as the type and size of work and the contractor’s experience and expertise. In Delaware, the average hourly cost of hiring a home improvement contractor is between $25 to $50. However, this cost may vary across different cities and localities in the state. The following are hourly wage estimates for specific home improvement projects in Delaware:
Likewise, to engage the services of licensed attorneys in Delaware, a homeowner will have to pay around $150 to $250 per hour, depending on the attorney’s experience, expertise, and qualification.
What Are Home Improvement
Scams in Delaware?
Home improvement scams in Delaware involve the unscrupulous tactics of home improvement contractors aimed at defrauding homeowners of funds set aside for the execution of home improvement projects. Common tactics devised by home improvement contractors include the use of substandard supplies, deliberately doing shoddy work, and running off with payment without doing the work or after completing only a fraction of it. In Delaware, the Consumer Sentinel Network (CSN) reported more than 10,000 cases of scams, which included home improvement scams, in 2020. These scams resulted in financial losses of over $9 million. Below are indications that a home improvement contractor may be out to scam you:
- The contractor does not have a license or proof of authorization to work in your locality.
- The contractor creates a false sense of urgency about a project in a bid to pressure you to make hasty decisions.
- The contractor has a readily available financing arrangement to fund the home improvement project.
- The contractor asks for a substantial down payment that exceeds the cost of the labor and material supply needed to start the project.
- The contractor is relatively unknown in your locality.
- The contractor persistently tries to avoid coming in contact with regulatory agencies. An example of this is the contractor asking you to overlook required building or work permits.
Homeowners should avoid dealing with contractors who exhibit any of the indicators listed above. In general, homeowners must be wary of substantially lower price offerings, keep away from unlicensed contractors, and make informed consultations before making a contracting decision. They should also exercise a significant deal of care regarding making payments for the project.
What Are Common Home Improvement Scams in Delaware?
Over time, home improvement scammers have consistently utilized certain schemes to defraud homeowners. Homeowners must be aware of these schemes so that they can identify and stop these scammers in their tracks. One of the most common home improvement scams perpetrated in Delaware is the door-to-door home improvement scam.
In door-to-door home improvement scams, a mischievous contractor visits a homeowner uninvited, solicits for home repair and improvement jobs, and offers to get them done for a considerable discount. Once the homeowner agrees to hire the contractor for a project, the contractor obtains the down payment, vanishes, and never returns to work.
In some other cases, door-to-door contractors offer to use leftover materials from a recent project for a homeowner's project at a really low cost, only to vanish with whatever payment they can get out of the homeowner. Quite notably, older adults who live alone are the most targeted demographic under this type of scheme, as they are believed to be more trusting and easily convinced. One way homeowners can guard against these scams is by requesting and then verifying the licenses of any door-to-door contractors they are dealing with. The Delaware Department of Finance issues a Door-to-Door Salesperson ID Card to approved door-to-door home improvement contractors, and these types of contractors are mandatorily required to display these ID cards while soliciting business.
In March 2016, the Consumer Protection Unit of the Office of the Delaware Attorney General instituted criminal charges against a contractor for scamming a 72-year-old homeowner of over $17,000 for home improvement work. The contractor had completed only a minimal portion of the project and had stopped showing up to complete the rest. Shortly after this, law enforcement officials arrested another contractor for scamming homeowners by soliciting projects via text, Facebook, and email messages, persuading them into making large down payments that would supposedly be used to obtain permits and building supplies, and then not showing up to complete the work promised.
Homeowners can report cases of fraud perpetrated by home improvement contractors to the Fraud and Consumer Protection Division of the State Attorney General’s Office online or by calling either (800) 220-5424 or (302) 577-8600.
What Are Disaster Scams in Delaware?
Homeowners in Delaware that are affected by a disaster are usually desperate for help, and this leaves them vulnerable to fraudulent home improvement contractors. These fraudulent contractors perpetrate various dubious and deceptive schemes to scam homeowners of funds meant for home repair and remodeling works. Below are helpful tips to avoid disaster scams:
- Homeowners should avoid contractors without a license or required permits for the repair job.
- Homeowners should ensure that they do not sign a home improvement contract that they do not fully understand. It is advisable to hire a qualified attorney in such circumstances.
- Homeowners must avoid contractors who claim to be working in affiliation with a federal or state disaster management agency.
- Homeowners should also be wary of strange contractors who were previously not known in the locality.
- Homeowners must ask prospective contractors to present proof of liability insurance and bonding.
- Homeowners should take quotes in writing and ensure there is also a written contract between them and the contractor for repairs involving substantial sums of money.
- Homeowners should withhold payment until their home improvement work has been satisfactorily completed.
Cases of suspected or confirmed disaster scams can be reported to the state’s Attorney General’s Office at (302) 577-8600.
What Are Common Legal
Legal work scams describe all fraudulent acts committed under the guise of offering legal services. This category of work scam is not only committed by attorneys. Non-attorneys such as businessmen and real estate agents also commit legal work scams. Attorney-committed legal work scams are usually perpetrated under a typical attorney-client relationship. Non-attorneys, on the other hand, commit legal work scams through the use of adulterated legal documents such as contracts and wills. In Delaware, some of the most common legal work scams include:
- Attorneys aiding and abetting commissions of fraud by drawing up deceptive contracts and agreements
- Diversion and misuse of client funds by an attorney
- Insertion of clauses that compromise the rights of a party to a contract
Consumers can lose substantial amounts of money and assets to legal work scams, and as such, they must ensure due diligence so that they do not fall victim to these scams. The following are some of the precautionary measures a consumer may take to guard against legal work scams:
- Ensure you hire and deal with only qualified and licensed attorneys by researching an attorney’s background and reputation and asking for referrals before making a hire. In addition to referrals by family, friends, and colleagues, the Delaware Bar Association (DBA) offers a lawyer referral service for interested members of the public.
- Hire attorneys who are bonafide members of a professional body, such as the Delaware State Bar Association. This precaution is highly recommended.
- Have a business, property, or project contract thoroughly reviewed by a qualified and reputable attorney before signing it.
- Discuss with your attorney the frequency and means through which you would like to receive updates on your cases and accounts. Make sure to enforce this.
To find information about an attorney, members of the public can make inquiries at the Delaware Supreme Court at (302) 739-4155. Also, if you believe an attorney has dealt with you dishonestly, you may lodge your complaints online with the Office of Disciplinary Counsel.
How Long Does it Take to Get a License in
State-issued business license applications, which are mandatory for contractors in Delaware, typically take around one month to be processed. The Division of Revenue sends permanent business licenses to successful applicants within ten days of approval. However, before these permanent licenses are issued, applicants and existing licensees are allowed to print temporary licenses once the state approves their license application or renewal. Upon application approval, the Department of Revenue provides these temporary licenses online for new licensees to print, and the temporary licenses are usually valid for a maximum of 60 days.
In counties where local licensure is required, the duration for processing license applications typically vary from one place to another. Individuals that are interested in obtaining a license locally can make inquiries at the local regulatory agency
On the other hand, there is no specified timeline for processing a contractor license application for plumbing, electrical, and HVACR work. The time it will take to process a license in Delaware depends on how early an applicant submits a complete application. Applications are usually reviewed for approval on or before the next scheduled meeting of the Board of Plumbing and HVACR Examiners.
How to Maintain Your License in Delaware
Contractors with locally-issued contractor licenses have to contact the relevant issuing authority to find out the specific maintenance requirements for their licenses. However, electrical, plumbing, and HVACR contractors with state-issued licenses in Delaware can make changes to their professional profiles such as name, email, address, and other contact details by requesting a service via the DOPR’s online professional licensure system. To effect a name change, a licensee must provide legal proof of this change, such as a legal name change document, marriage certificate, or divorce decree.
Electrical contractors, as well as plumbing and HVACR contractors, are also required to meet the continuing education requirements set by the DOPR’s Board of Electrical Examiners and Board of Plumbing, Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Examiners respectively.
Also, licensed electrical, plumbing, and HVACR contractors looking to take a break from active professional practice can keep their licenses valid by applying to change the status of their licenses from active to inactive via the online professional licensure system. License holders may only make the status of their licenses inactive before their expiration date and cannot legally practice while their licenses remain inactive. Plumbing and HVACR licenses can only be kept inactive for five years, beyond which the licenses terminate. In contrast, electrical licenses that are kept in an inactive status have to be renewed every two years with an inactive status renewal fee and completion of required continuing education. To reactivate an inactive electrical, plumbing, or HVACR contractor license, the license holder will have to submit a Service Request online, accompanied by payment of a reactivation fee, and required continuing education units. Reactivation of inactive electrical contractor licenses requires additional proof of relevant insurance cover.
Delaware attorneys are required to complete 24 Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credit hours every two years as a biannual requirement. However, New attorneys that were admitted between the start of January and the end of November, attorneys restarting active practice, and senior attorneys, are exempt from this requirement. Note that these exemptions account for less than 5% of all practicing judges and attorneys in the state. Several providers offer accredited courses and activities for CLE opportunities, including the Delaware State Bar, which is a voluntary bar association for attorneys in the state.
Attorneys that are required to meet CLE requirements must report any earned credit hours by December 31 of every odd-numbered or even-numbered year, depending on the year they were admitted into the bar. Within the first two compliance periods after admission, which is equal to a total of four years, newly admitted attorneys must complete seven fundamentals programs made available only by the Delaware State Bar Association. The programs are:
- Fundamentals of Lawyer-Client Relations
- Fundamentals of Family Law
- Fundamentals of Real Estate
- Fundamentals of Civil Litigation
- Fundamentals of Will Drafting and Estate Administration
- Fundamentals of Law Practice Management and Technology
- Fundamentals of Criminal Law and Procedure
Licensed Delaware attorneys can update their profile information using the Delaware Supreme Court Lawyer Management System (DSCLMS). Attorneys must notify the Clerk’s Office at (302) 739-4155 if they lose their bar cards. To obtain a new bar card, attorneys must contact the Delaware Lawyer Management System helpline at (302) 798-7500 or send an email to the DSCLMS helpdesk.
How to Renew Contractor License in
Newly-issued business licenses in Delaware last for one year. After the initial renewal, the license holder will have the option to renew for either one or three years. Delaware business license holders may renew their licenses via the Delaware One-Stop Business Licensing and Registration Service or by requesting a business license renewal form by email or by calling (302) 577-8200 and by sending a completed copy of the form to the state’s Division of Revenue at:
- P.O. Box 8750
- Wilmington, DE 19801-8750
Similarly, electrical contractor licenses in Delaware expire on the last day of June in even-numbered years, such as 2016, 2018, and 2020, while plumbing and HVACR licenses expire on the last day of October in even-numbered years. Once these licenses expire, it becomes illegal for the license holder to continue to offer paid professional services. A few months before licenses expire, the relevant Board of Examiners in Delaware sends email notifications to license holders, informing them of their imminent license expiration. These email notifications will also typically contain instructions on how to complete the license renewal process via the online professional licensure system. It is therefore important for license holders to keep their professional profiles and contact information, such as phone numbers and emails, updated. Electrical, plumbing, and HVACR contractor licenses may still be renewed up to one year after expiration for a late renewal fee, in addition to the main renewal fee. The relevant licensing board terminates a license if the holder fails to renew the license within a year after expiration. The affected professionals will need to reapply as new applicants.
As for locally issued licenses, the procedure for license renewal typically varies and will require that license holders contact the relevant licensing authorities for reliable instructions on the requirements and procedure for license renewal.
Licensed attorneys in Delaware must complete their required annual registration online via the Delaware Supreme Court Lawyer Management System.