Handymen in Boston charge average hourly rates of $25.63, which make them a cheaper alternative to general contractors and trade professionals for handling home repairs. However, considering that in 2021 alone, more than 700 home improvement-related consumer complaints were filed with the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office, it is important to take steps to ensure that you hire a legitimate handyman. To this end, never take any handyman in the city by their word when looking to undertake general home improvements and repairs. Instead, before hiring any of these individuals, ensure that they meet certain qualificatory criteria by asking the questions listed below:
- Are You Licensed to Practice as a Handyman in the City of Boston?
- How Much Do You Charge Compared to Handymen in the City of Boston?
- Do You Require a Permit to Complete This Work in the City of Boston?
- What Works Can You Do Legally as a Handyman in the City of Boston?
- Do You Carry the Necessary Insurance Policy for Handymen in the City of Boston?
Handymen that wish to operate in Boston do not require city-issued occupational licenses to provide their services to interested parties. However, these individuals must register as Home Improvement Contractors with the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation (OCABR) before they can perform any type of home improvement work on existing one to four-unit residential properties in the city. Nonetheless, registration exemptions are made for certain individuals, which include:
- Contractors and subcontractors that are working on projects with a total cost that is less than $500
- Part time contractors and subcontractors with a gross revenue that is less than $5,000 in the past 12 months
- Properly licensed tradesmen such as electricians and plumbers that are working within the scope of their licenses
The home improvement contractor registration process can be completed online via a registration portal provided by and maintained by the OCABR for this purpose. Registration can also be done by completing and submitting an Application for Registration as a Home Improvement Contractor or Sub-Contractor Form in person at:
- 1000 Washington Street
- Suite 710
- Boston, MA 02118
The completed form can also be submitted, along with the applicable registration fees in the form of a money order or bank check made payable to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, via mail-in to:
- Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation
- Home Improvement Contractor Program
- 1000 Washington Street
- Suite 710
- Boston, MA 02118
Inquiries concerning the OCABR's home improvement contractor registration process can be directed to (617) 973-8787 or toll-free number (888) 283-3757. Note that, in addition to registering at the state level, handymen in Boston also have to register their business locally with the city before operating. This local business registration can be completed by filling out a New Business Certificate Application Form, notarizing the completed form, and then submitting it in person or via mail-in to:
- Boston City Hall
- Office of the City Clerk
- Room 601
- 1 City Hall Square
- Boston, MA 02201
In-person submissions can be done between the hours of 9:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., Mondays to Fridays. Parties that choose the in-person submission option can also notarize their application forms at City Hall. Likewise, parties that wish to submit their applications via mail-in will be required to include the stipulated application fees as well as a self-addressed, stamped envelope, with the words "ATTN: Business Certificates" included on the mail-in envelope. Queries concerning the City of Boston's local business registration requirements can be directed to the Office of the City Clerk at (617) 635-4601.
You should always confirm that your intended handyman has fulfilled all necessary local and state-level registration requirements before finalizing any arrangements with them. You can confirm local business registrations by contacting the Boston Office of the City Clerk at (617) 635-4601. Likewise, you can verify that your intended handyman has been duly registered at the state level with the OCABR by utilizing this office's Home Improvement Contractor Registration Lookup portal.
While Boston handymen typically charge hourly rates for their services, some of these professionals may utilize a fixed fee structure for certain relatively straightforward tasks, such as hanging artwork or replacing faulty fixtures. Regardless of the billing structure used for the service, the total cost of home repair and maintenance jobs is generally influenced by the following factors:
- The nature and scope of the job
- The cost of materials and supplies that will be required to perform the job
- The complexity and labor intensity of the job
To ensure that you are charged a fair rate for your home repair and improvement job, you should always get and compare cost estimates from multiple handymen in the city before making your hiring decision. Doing this helps you spot fraudulent handymen that grossly overcharge for their services as well as those that deliberately submit low bids to get you to hire them and then abscond after receiving payment.
Boston handymen earn an average wage of $53,300, annually. The table below compares and contrasts the average hourly wages of handymen and other general maintenance and repair workers in Boston with those of workers in this industry across the State of Massachusetts and other major American cities:Boston Handyman Average Hourly Wage$25.63Massachusetts Handyman Average Wage$24.97Chicago Handyman Average Hourly Wage$24.56Los Angeles Handyman Average Hourly Wage$23.74New York City Handyman Average Hourly Wage$25.73Seattle Handyman Average Hourly Wage$26.02Washington D.C. Handyman Average Hourly Wage$24.42
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Permits issued by the Boston Inspectional Services Department are generally required for home improvement, repair, and other construction-related activities in the city. This department issues two types of permits, namely:
- Short-form Permits: these are required for minor work that does not involve any changes to a building's use or exits, fire protection, or living area
- Long-form permits: these are required for work that involves structural repairs and renovations, new constructions and additions, and changes to the use or occupancy of a building
Parties that wish to obtain short-form permits may do so online via the Boston Inspectional Services Department's Inspectional Services Portal. First-time permit applicants should note that they will be required to register a user account on this portal before they can properly access it. On the other hand, long-form permit applications can also be initiated online via the Inspectional Services Portal, however, they must be completed in person at the Boston Inspectional Services Department's office located at:
- Building Division
- Counter 1
- 1010 Massachusetts Avenue
- 5th Floor
- Boston, MA 02118
The submission of plans and additional supporting documents may be required for review before these permits are issued. It should be noted that certain types of ordinary work such as door replacements, fence construction and repair, kitchen cabinet and shelving installation and repair, painting, carpeting, and tiling, may not require any permits at all. Also, in situations where a permit is issued, the permitted work is generally subject to inspections by authorized city officials to ensure compliance with the provisions of the permit and other relevant city laws. As such, it is advisable to contact the Boston Inspectional Services Department at (617) 635-5300 or (617) 635-5360 before commencing your project to find out whether you will require a permit for it or to get additional information on the city's permitting process.
Handymen in the City of Boston are required to complete a state-level home improvement contractor registration process with the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation (OCABR) before performing any work on residential property. However, in situations where the work in question is less than $500, handymen in the city are exempt from this registration requirement.
Regardless of this, it is always in your best interest to hire a handyman that has been duly registered with the state, as these handymen are typically held to higher regulatory standards than their unregistered counterparts. This in turn provides you with a measure of confidence that your home improvement or repair work will be done satisfactorily. You can confirm the registration status of your handyman via an online platform provided by the OCABR. It is also a good idea to find out how much your preferred handyman charges for the specific type of work that you need to be done before it commences, to avoid misunderstandings at the end of the day.
The list below provides cost estimates for home improvement and repair services that are commonly requested by Boston homeowners:Artwork hanging$70 - $150Awning repair$90 - $500Cabinet repair$80 - $550Cabinet refinishing$450 - $2,500Drain unclogging$70 - $200Driveway sealing$100 - $250Drywall repair$100 - $500Electrical appliance installation$110 - $350Faulty fixture repair/replacement$70 - $300Gutter cleaning$70 - $300Home childproofing$100 - $500Lawn care/landscaping maintenance$70 - $350Patio/deck painting$80 - $600Room painting$150 - $750Snow removal$70 - $350TV mounting$70 - $200Residential handyman services$67.80 - $82.70 per hour (labor only)Commercial handyman services$77.40 - $90.70 per hour (labor only)
Approximately 23,400 work-related nonfatal injuries were recorded by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics amongst general maintenance and repair workers in 2020. As such, even though there are no mandatory liability insurance requirements for handymen that operate in the City of Boston, you should always make sure that your handyman has an active general liability insurance plan. Hiring a handyman that carries general liability insurance ensures that you do not have to bear any financial or legal liabilities if a work-related accident that results in bodily injury or property damage occurs during your home improvement or repair job.
To this end, before hiring any handyman in Boston, request a copy of their insurance certificate and contact the handyman's insurance provider to validate this document. Also, find out if the handyman's coverage limit is enough to cover the scope of your intended project. It should be noted that, in situations where your handyman has any assistants, apprentices, or other employees, the handyman is statutorily required to carry workers' compensation insurance for these individuals. Inquiries concerning state-mandated workers' compensation insurance requirements can be directed to the Boston Regional Office of the Massachusetts Department of Industrial Accidents at (617) 727-4900 and (800) 323-3249.
In February 2022, news station WWLP reported that a Boston-area home improvement contractor had been banned from doing business in the State of Massachusetts and also ordered to pay $150,000 as restitution to dozens of homeowners for home improvement scams. These types of scams are a common occurrence in the City of Boston, and Massachusetts in general, and they were the second-highest type of complaints made to the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office in 2021, with approximately 730 complaints filed during this period.
To this end, you should consider the following tips when searching for handymen in Boston to avoid falling victim to a home improvement scam:
- Always hire state-registered handymen. You can verify your intended handyman's registration status online
- Do not hire handymen that show up at your home unsolicited. Instead, get referrals to professional handymen from friends and family that have carried out similar home improvement and repair projects or via reputable consumer-oriented platforms like the Better Business Bureau
- Always compare estimates for your project from at least three different handymen
- Request local verifiable references from your preferred handyman and contact them before finalizing any hiring agreements with the handyman
- Make sure that the handyman is duly insured
- Make sure that you are given a written contract for the work. This contract should include the handyman's contact details, a description of the work that is to be done, and its cost. Take your time to properly read this contract before signing it
- Never sign contracts that contain blank spaces
- Never pay the complete cost of the work upfront and be wary of handymen that ask you to do this
- Do not make advance payments that exceed 30 percent of the project's total cost
- Keep all relevant documents related to the project, such as receipts and invoices
You can report home improvement scams and other deceptive business activities of handymen in Boston by calling the city's Consumer Affairs Division at (617) 635-3834. Consumer complaints can also be filled with the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office, either online or by mailing a Consumer Complaint Form to:
- Office of the Attorney General
- Consumer Advocacy & Response Division
- One Ashburton Place
- 18th Floor
- Boston, MA 02108
Finally, handyman-related complaints can be filed with the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation by completing and submitting a Home Improvement Contractor Complaint Form via mail to:
Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation
Home Improvement Contractor Program
- 1000 Washington Street
- Suite 710
- Boston, MA 02118