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What Are Indiana Contractors?

Home improvement contractors specialize in carrying out structural alterations, repairs, and replacements in residential properties. Services offered by home improvement contractors include electrical, plumbing, roofing, and HVACR (Heating, Ventilating, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration) works. In Indiana, the Indiana Professional Licensing Agency (PLA) only issues professional licenses to the plumbing works category through the Indiana Plumbing Commission. Other home improvement professionals such as electrical, roofing, flooring, and HVACR contractors are licensed at the local level.

Besides the Indiana Plumbing Commission, other agencies under the PLA that issue professional licensing in Indiana include the State Board of Registration for Architects and Landscape Architects, the State Board of Registration for Professional Engineers, the Indiana State Board of Nursing, and the State Board of Registration for Professional Surveyors.

In addition to occupational licenses, the state of Indiana requires all businesses and corporations to register with the Office of the Indiana Secretary of State. Although the state has made the business registration process as easy as possible, large corporations and companies may still need to engage the services of Indiana state attorneys to ensure that their business registration process is hitch-free and accurate. Over 15,000 licensed attorneys in the state are admitted into the practice of law and professionally regulated by the Indiana Supreme Court.

Tips for Hiring a Contractor
in Indiana

For the fact that homeowners will inevitably require the services of home improvement contractors to work on what is arguably their most prized asset at one time or the other, it is essential that they take extra precaution to ensure that they engage only qualified, licensed, and trustworthy contractors in these tasks. As a homeowner, you must make a deliberate effort to hire contractors that will promptly deliver top-quality work for a reasonable charge. The following tips will provide some guidance in your hiring process:

  • Consult qualified professionals to determine what type of work your property needs and the category of home improvement to employ
  • Get referrals from family, close friends, and trusted associates. Local home improvement contractors’ associations are a good reference source for this. Also, it is more reassuring to hire contractors who identify with a professional association. The Indiana Builders Association (IBA) provides a statewide directory of bonafide members that offer home improvement and remodeling services.
  • Select at least three of the contractors referred to you who have handled a project similar to yours. Make sure to select the ones that have a permanent business address and an excellent local reputation. You must also request past work references and a project quote.
  • Make detailed inquiries from prospective contractors’ past clients about their level of satisfaction with a contractor’s job, including job timeliness, problem-resolution, and project update sharing. Also, ask if they would be willing to hire the contractor again.
  • Ask for proof of professional licensure issued by the local regulatory agency. For projects that involve plumbing works, request and verify a state-issued plumbing license. You should ask for and authenticate proof of business filing, which permits corporations and limited liability companies to do business in Indiana. Contractors doing business under a fictitious name must register with the local county or city clerk. You should, therefore, equally seek evidence of current filing. Disreputable contractors will typically try to avoid regulatory authorities as much as possible. Consequently, you should not do business with any contractor without a business and professional license.
  • Ask for proof of liability and workers’ compensation insurance coverage. Liability insurance protects your property against damage, while workers’ compensation insurance ensures that you will not get sued if a worker gets injured working on your property. For large projects, request proof of surety bonding which protects your job from being left half-done if a contractor defaults on the contract.
  • Ensure that the contractor provides you with a written project contract, particularly if the work will cost more than $150. The Indiana Home Improvement Contract Law makes this mandatory. Some of the information that a home improvement contract must include are the names and permanent address of the homeowner and contractor, address of the residential property that is the subject of the contract if it is not the same as the homeowner’s permanent address, detailed description of the intended home improvement project, proposed start date and estimated project duration, the total cost of the job and mutually agreed payment arrangement, and the contact information of the person to reach out to if a problem arises.
  • Hire a qualified attorney to vet the content of the written contract and ensure that you are not entering into a potentially compromising agreement with the contractor.
  • Plan your payment schedule in a manner that guarantees payment only for a job done. Avoid contractors asking for a substantial down payment, such as more than a third of the entire cost. Professional contractors will usually be financially solvent enough to start a project without your advance payment. Also, make sure you evaluate the finished work before making the final payment.
  • Make sure your contractor obtains the permits required for your job at the local building regulatory agency.
  • Properly store all paperwork relating to the project, such as contracts, correspondence, quotes, and written warranties. These documents can be very helpful if a problem arises.

If a problem arises, attempt to settle it amicably with your contractor and involve your attorney where necessary. If there is still no solution and you believe your contractor is out to cheat you, you can lodge your complaints with the Office of the Indiana Attorney General online or by downloading and submitting a completed complaint form along with all supporting documents to:

  • Consumer Protection Division
  • Office of the Indiana Attorney General
  • 302 West Washington Street
  • 5th Floor
  • Indianapolis, IN 46204

How to Search A Contractor's License in Indiana?

Only plumbing contractors are required to carry a state-issued license in Indiana, other general and specialty contractors are licensed at the individual municipality. For example, in the city of Indianapolis the Department of Business and Neighborhood Services administer trade licenses and contractors in Fort Wayne are licensed by the Allen County Building Department.

The Indiana Professional Licensing Agency (IPLA) is the state authority charged with administering plumbing licensing. The agency provides four categories of plumbing license:

  • Apprentice Plumber
  • Journeyman Plumber
  • Plumbing Contractor
  • Temporary Plumbing Contract

To verify a plumber's license in Indiana, use the IPLA online verification search page. Ensure to pick the plumbing commission under the profession criteria before completing a search. For other home improvement professionals, contact your local government authority to determine the validity of your contractor's license. Penalties for contracting without a license in Indiana typically falls under the jurisdiction of licensing municipalities.

How Much Does a Contractor Charge in
Indiana?

The total cost of a project is affected by the type of home improvement work you want to execute, the scale or size of such work, and the contractor’s level of experience and expertise. The average hourly fee charged by home improvement contractors in Indiana ranges between $25 to $55. The hourly cost range for specific home improvement jobs is estimated below:

Carpenters
$20 - $40
Concrete contractors
$20 - $45
Drywall installation/repair contractors
$20 - $50
Electricians
$30 - $65
Flooring contractors
$25 - $40
HVAC contractors
$25 - $45
Interior and exterior finishing contractors
$30 - $60
Landscaping contractors
$25 - $40
Masonry contractors
$20 - $40
Painters
$20 - $40
Plumbing contractors
$30 - $65
Roofing contractors
$30 - $50
Security installation contractors
$30 - $45
Siding installation/repair contractors
$30 - $60

Given that homeowners usually need the services of a qualified attorney, it is important to know what it will take to hire one. The hourly wage for attorneys in the state of Indiana ranges between $100 to $250. However, expertise and experience are factors that heavily impact the final fee you will have to pay.

What Are Home Improvement
Scams in Indiana?

Home improvement scams arise due to the dishonest practices of some home improvement contractors, resulting in loss of money for homeowners and compromising the lifespan and structural integrity of residential properties. In 2020, consumers in Indiana reported more than 44,000 total scams, including home improvement scams, resulting in a financial loss of over $31million. Therefore, homeowners need to be aware of the warning signs and avoid dealing with shoddy contractors. The following are possible indications that a home improvement contractor is a scammer:

  • The contractor pressures you for an immediate decision, creating a false sense of urgency.
  • The contractor claims to have spotted a not-too-obvious problem from a distance and offers to fix it for a “sweet” discount.
  • The contractor’s business vehicle does not have any identifiable markings or labels.
  • The contractor is asking for a more than reasonable payment upfront, such as more than half the project cost, and only wants this payment in cash.
  • The contractor readily offers you financing options or recommending an unknown lender.
  • The contractor does not have, or is unwilling to provide, a verifiable permanent business address
  • The contractor is relatively unknown to people in your neighborhood or locality.
  • The contractor suggests that you overlook the permit requirements of a project and attempting to avoid contacting any regulatory agency as much as possible

It is also advisable to be wary of itinerant home improvement sales agents and take your time before accepting a home improvement deal from these individuals. Below are additional useful guidelines:

  • Be careful of very high discounts
  • Verify contractor identities before making your hire and ask for proof of licensure, insurance, and bonding

Beyond the poor jobs, use of inferior quality, and loss of money, home improvement scams have the potential of adversely affecting your credit rating and increase the risk of you losing your home through foreclosure in cases involving dubious financing arrangements. Therefore, you should not take chances and report instances of home improvement scams to your local police department or the relevant local regulatory agency.

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What are Common Home Improvement Scams in Indiana?

Awareness of the most frequently perpetrated home improvement scams helps prevent unsuspecting residents of Indiana from falling victim to scammers. Homeowners in the state, especially the elderly, who are the most targeted category, must be mentally prepared to identify and avoid these schemes in whatever form they come. The most common types of home improvement scams are listed below:

  • Door-to-door home improvement scams: Under this scheme, door-to-door home improvement contractors pay unsolicited visits to homeowners with the offer to undertake some home repair or remodeling job for a highly discounted fee. A common tactic involves the scammers claiming that they have materials left over from a recently finished job in the neighborhood and that they would be using these materials for your job, hence the discount. All these claims are usually false, as the real intention is to get the homeowner to pay for the job and then disappear, never to return.
  • Home improvement contract scam: This type of scam occurs when a home improvement contractor deliberately inserts a clause that compromises a homeowner’s property rights into a contract. It may involve inserting hidden, outrageous charges in a contract, and at the same time, including another clause that places a lien on the property if the homeowner fails to pay. Upon completing the job, the homeowner, who is then made aware of these charges, protests by refusing to pay. The contractor then threatens to invoke the property lien clause which the homeowner was previously unaware of, leaving the homeowner with the choice of losing the property or paying the fraudulent charges. Contract scams may also come in different forms. Therefore, it is necessary to have a qualified attorney review a contract’s fine print before signing it.
  • Contractor misrepresentation: This is usually perpetrated when contractors misrepresent their ability to perform a task in a bid to persuade homeowners to make payment. Certain contractors promise to execute a particular task even though they know they do not have the required training and qualification to do such. These contractors may even present fake certification documents in order to gain homeowners’ trust. Once the homeowner makes the payment, the contractor pretends to start the project by doing basic project preparatory activities and then vanishes not long after, abandoning the project and sometimes leaving the house uninhabitable. This further underlines why homeowners must seek local, verifiable references and also inspect a contractor’s past project where possible.

In all of these scams, taking extra care when making payment decisions can help reduce financial loss as much as possible. While there are no state laws that govern the amount of money that must be paid as a down payment, it would be wise not to pay more than a third of the total cost at the start of the project. Succeeding payments must also be made only in relation to the level of progress on the project.

The Office of the Indiana Attorney General prosecutes home improvement scams and provides homeowners the medium to report them. In July 2018, the Office of the Indiana Attorney General sued a home improvement contractor for violating the Indiana Home Improvement Contracts Act and the Indiana Deceptive Consumer Sales Act. These violations involved taking the money from homeowners and not doing the work, or sometimes starting the project and abandoning it in a dangerous state. The lawsuit also sought a $16,120 restitution for the victims of the contractor’s deceptive, abusive and unfair practices.

Homeowners in Indiana can request a complaint form by calling 1-800-382-5516 or (317) 232-6330. Alternatively, homeowners can lodge their complaints online. Interested homeowners can also sign up for the state fraud alert system which notifies them of the latest fraud and scam tactics.

What are Disaster Scams in Indiana?

When property damaging disasters strike, affected homeowners have to be watchful to avoid another type of calamity in the form of disaster scams. Disaster scams are those dubious schemes that some contractors perpetuate after a disaster to fraudulently deprive disaster victims of their insurance claims or any other funds meant for property repair. Hence, it would be wise for homeowners to know what to be on the lookout for, and what precautionary measures to take to forestall falling victim to a disaster fraud. The following tips will help avoid falling victim to disaster frauds:

  • In their desperation for help, homeowners must exercise enough patience and caution to carefully scrutinize prospective contractors by seeking proof of qualification, licensure, insurance, bonding, and relevant contracting experience.
  • Homeowners must avoid contractors who appear strange or new in the locality. It is recommended to hire locally reputed contractors who had been relatively unknown in the community before the disaster.
  • Homeowners must not rush into signing any home improvement contract without having it carefully vetted by a qualified attorney.
  • Homeowners must be wary of the proliferation of various home improvement financing schemes after disasters. Some of these financing contracts contain clauses targeted at exploiting distraught victims such that they end up repaying way above the finance facility they were granted.
  • Homeowners must lookout for scammers posing as home inspectors recommending contractors and pressurizing disaster victims for urgent repairs.

Suspected or actual disaster scams should be reported to a local police department or the Office of the Indiana Attorney General toll-free line at 1-800-457-8283.

What are Common Legal
Work Scams?

Legal works scams are deceptive and fraudulent practices and schemes of attorneys aimed at cheating and taking unfair advantage of clients. These scams usually result in substantial monetary losses for the affected clients. In some cases, non-attorneys also connive with attorneys and other legal service providers to commit legal work scams. The following are examples of the most common legal work scams in Indiana:

  • An attorney refusing to fully remit money collected on behalf of a client or deliberately failing to keep a written account of the same
  • Settling clients’ cases without their express permission for financial gains
  • Deliberately hiding case details that will ensure quick case resolution to prolong the lawsuit and increase billable hours
  • Mismanagement and embezzlement of clients’ trust funds and the use of these funds for personal expenses.

Legal work scams can result in significant financial loss, especially if the scam is perpetrated in business-related contracts or matters. You should therefore take necessary precautions to avoid falling victim to one. Some key precautions for avoiding legal work scams include:

  • Work with qualified, licensed, and reputable attorneys. This can be achieved by making informed hiring decisions such as hiring on a referral basis and researching an attorney’s professional history.
  • Ensure that there is an agreement between you and your attorney about how frequently your attorney should update you about your case and via what means and make arrangements for an appropriate case-progress reporting mechanism
  • Understand what the case-specific responsibilities of your attorney are. This can help you spot when the attorney is making potentially case compromising decisions.
  • Enforce regular reporting on your account and routinely verify the figures

While it is best to attempt to settle any issues that you may have with your attorney amicably, you should always report fraudulent practices by attorneys to the Disciplinary Commission of the Indiana Supreme Court. This complaint must be made in writing through a Request for Investigation Form. A completed copy of the form should be sent to:

  • Indiana Supreme Court
  • Disciplinary Commission
  • 251 North Illinois Street
  • Suite 1650
  • Indianapolis, IN 46204
  • Phone: (317) 232-1807

How Long Does it Take to Get a License in
Indiana?

There is no specified timeline for processing a state-issued plumbing contractor license in the state of Indiana. However, applicants can track the progress of their license application online. For other contractors that obtain professional licenses from county or city authorities, the application processing time is usually determined by location, the licensing authority in question, and factors such as license classification and the volume of license applications being processed by the licensing authority at the time. Interested applicants can make inquiries concerning the licensing process at the relevant local regulatory authorities to ensure that they plan their application in a way that it is received early enough for use.

How to Maintain your License in Indiana

The guidelines for maintaining a locally issued license depend on the instructions set out by the local licensing agencies. Holders of locally issued licenses must therefore make detailed findings on how to keep their licenses updated. For state-issued plumbing licenses, license holders can make changes to their licenses online through the Indiana Licensing Enterprise portal.

The Indiana Supreme Court allows attorneys to change their legal name by downloading, filling and completing, and mailing the Affidavit of Change of Name to the Office of the Clerk of the Supreme Court at:

  • Clerk of the Appellate Courts
  • 216 State House
  • 200 West Washington Street
  • Indianapolis, IN 46204

Attorneys in Indiana can update other personal information online by logging into their personal professional profiles via the Indiana Courts Portal. Also, each attorney must complete at least six hours of approved educational courses annually, and complete a minimum of 36 hours of continuing legal education in every three-year educational period. Note that at least three of these hours must involve approved professional responsibility courses.

How to Renew Contractor License in
Indiana

State-issued contractor licenses expire every two years in Indiana and the holders of these licenses receive license renewal notices in their email addresses 90 days before their license expiration. Licensees without working email addresses will have the renewal notice mailed to their address on record with the Indiana Plumbing Commission. License holders can then complete the renewal process online or by downloading, completing, and mailing the relevant renewal form, accompanied by a check in the amount of the applicable renewal fee made payable to “Indiana Professional Licensing Agency”, to the Indiana Plumbing Commission at:

  • Indiana Professional Licensing Agency
  • Indiana Plumbing Commission
  • 402 West Washington Street
  • Room W072
  • Indianapolis, Indiana 46204

License holders with licenses that have expired for more than three years are also required to pay a reinstatement fee and provide a letter describing their work history since the expiration of the license. Note that in some cases, a reinstatement application may necessitate an in-person appearance before the Indiana Plumbing Commission.

To renew a license issued by a local licensing authority, license holders will have to contact the relevant licensing agency for the required steps.

Indiana state attorneys are required to complete an annual registration exercise on the Indiana Courts Portal on or before October 1 every calendar year. Attorneys typically receive a reminder on this via email from the Indiana Appellate Clerk by August 1. Failure to complete the registration before the deadline will result in a late fees penalty and possibly, a license suspension.