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What Are Maine Contractors?

The Office of Professional and Financial Regulation is responsible for licensing 66 professions and occupations in the State of Maine. These include building professionals such as architects, engineers, electricians, plumbers, and manufactured housing professionals. Although these professionals are statutorily mandated to acquire a state-issued license before practicing their trade, contractors that offer home and property construction, repair, and improvement services are not required to obtain these licenses. However, per the state’s Home Construction Contracts Act, these contractors must provide a written contract for any project that costs more than $3,000. This written contract must include certain provisions like a warranty statement, a method of payment, and a clear and conspicuous notice that strongly advises the consumer to visit the state Attorney General’s website for information on their consumer rights. Note that although home construction, repair, and improvement contractors are not required to obtain state-level licenses in Maine, some municipalities, cities, counties, and towns may have local licensing and regulatory requirements for these contractors.

Besides construction trade workers, other professionals in the state, such as accountants, pharmacists, and physicians, must hold a valid occupational license before they can practice. Likewise, the more than 5,400 actively practicing attorneys in Maine are also required to have a license issued by the state's Board of Overseers of The Bar.

Tips for Hiring a Contractor
in Maine

Given the high cost of executing building improvement projects, it is advisable to exercise due diligence when you want to hire contractors to carry out these projects. This way, you can ensure that any contractor you end up hiring is duly qualified and experienced. The first step to ensuring a hitch-free execution of any home improvement project is having a clear idea of what the project requires and the type of contractor that can meet these requirements. Some tips for hiring qualified contractors in the state of Maine includes:

  • Ask for good referrals from sources such as friends, co-workers, independent trade contractors, building material suppliers, and home inspectors.
  • Make proper inquiries regarding any referred contractors years of experience, permanent business addresses, and educational qualifications. Also, ask for evidence of professional affiliations, insurance (general liability and workers’ compensation), and a list of at least five past clients.
  • Verify the license of state-regulated professionals like plumbers, electricians, and interior designers. You can do this online or by calling (800) 436-2131. You can also find out whether this contractor has been the subject of a consumer complaint for disciplinary action by checking the contractor's disciplinary profile online or by sending an email to the Consumer Protection Unit of the Office of the Maine Attorney General.
  • Seek and follow up with references provided by the contractor
  • Check with your town’s building code regulators to ensure that your project is not in violation of any existing rules.
  • If a loan provider is financing your project, ensure that you clearly understand the terms and conditions of loan disbursement and repayment. Better still, hire a qualified attorney to help you review the contract terms.

In addition to the guidelines provided above by the state, you can take extra precautionary steps when hiring a contractor, some of which include:

  • Ask for a minimum of three project quotations from different contractors. This will help you avoid a financial rip-off.
  • Check out reviews on your contractor through online platforms like Yelp and Better Business Bureau.
  • Make proper documentation of project paperwork and do not sign a contract you do not fully understand - get an attorney if necessary.
  • Make the full payment only after a thorough job inspection and expectations have been met.

How to Search A Contractor's License in Maine?

Except for plumbers, electricians, and mobile home installers, Maine does not mandate licensing for home improvement contractors practicing in the state. Hence, to check for the validity of your contractor's license in Maine, contact your city or county building authority. For example, for the city of Portland contact the Building Inspections Department, in Bangor contact the Code Enforcement Department, and in Augusta contact the Code Enforcement Bureau.

However, if you have hired a plumber, electrician, or mobile home installer in Maine, you can check the contractor's license validity by visiting the website of the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation (PFR). Alternatively, you can call the PFR office at (207) 624-8457 to verify electricians, at (207) 624-8627 to verify plumbers, and at (207) 624-8612 to verify mobile home installers.

Note, while contractors do not require a state-level license in Maine, the law mandates them to obtain a business license and provide a written contract if they are handling home improvement jobs worth more than $3,000. There may be other local licensing requirements, ensure to check with the municipal authority. Penalties for contracting without a license in Maine are set by relevant local authorities.

How Much Does a Contractor Charge in
Maine?

The contractor fee in Maine is not fixed, as it is affected by factors such as the type and size of the project you want to execute, worksite distance from the contractor, and the general price level in your city or town. While some contractors may lump together labor and material costs for you, the more standard practice is to have costs of materials and labor separated. Contractors typically charge by the hour. Below are estimates of hourly contractor labor costs obtainable in the State of Maine:

Carpenters
$35 - $70
Concrete contractors
$35 - $70
Drywall installation/repair contractors
$40 - $80
Electricians
$75 - $110
Flooring contractors
$45 - $70
HVAC contractors
$70 - $105
Interior and exterior finishing contractors
$55 - $170
Landscaping contractors
$45 - $100
Maid services contractors
$55 - $100
Masonry contractors
$60 - $120
Painters
$40 - $75
Plumbing contractors
$70 - $105
Roofing contractors
$55 - $90
Security installation contractors
$65 - $100
Siding installation/repair contractors
$50 - $85M

Besides hiring a contractor for property improvement projects, you may also require the services of an attorney to handle matters relating to lawsuits, drafting, understanding, and signing of contracts, and other similar businesses. In Maine, the average hourly fee for attorneys ranges between $100 - $400.

What Are Home Improvement
Scams in Maine?

According to information published in the Federal Trade Commission's Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book, over 8,500 cases of scams, including home improvement, repair, and product scams, were reported in Maine in 2020, leading to financial losses of almost $6million.

Because home improvement contractors in Maine are not state-licensed or regulated, there is always the possibility of hiring a dubious and deceptive contractor anytime you want to carry out a home improvement project. Some of the undesirable practices of these types of contractors include scheming to runoff without actually doing the job, doing extremely poor work and in violation of standards, and leaving jobs uncompleted despite receiving adequate payment. In some cases, the contractors may deliberately do a bad job so that you will have to call for their services again. All these practices are known as home improvement scams.

In the light of the prevalence of these scams, it is necessary to take precautionary measures like verifying a contractor’s government-issued license where that is applicable, or by asking for and authenticating proof of bonafide membership of a recognized professional body. Licensing and certification generally indicate competence and professionalism in a particular field. Another step to take against being scammed is asking for references to similar past projects that the contractor has executed and contacting them to get an overall review of the contractor's performance. By law, your contractor’s workers also have to be covered by a workers’ compensation insurance policy. Therefore, you should also seek proof of insurance and bonding coverage to ensure that all job-related accidents and property damages are covered. For projects that cost more than $3,000, make sure that you obtain a proper written contract as required by state law. It is also advisable to retain the services of an attorney before signing any contracts, especially ones that you do not fully understand.

The Office of the Maine Attorney General publishes a list of home contractors that it has either sued or secured judgments against in matters that involve home improvement scams. The Consumer Protection Division of the Office of the Attorney General receives and investigates all consumer complaints in Maine. You can also file a complaint with the Office of Professional and Occupational Regulation (OPOR) if you suspect that a licensed professional is involved in a home improvement scam.

Professional License Search

What are Common Home Improvement Scams in Maine?

Fraudsters who specialize in home improvement schemes devise several methods to swindle their unsuspecting victims. The majority of these scams are targeted at the state’s older population because they are generally considered soft targets that will be unable to put up much resistance. Some of the most common home and property improvement scams reported in Maine are:

  • Paving Scams: Beware of unsolicited visits from contractors offering you a highly-discounted driveway paving service. These contractors usually claim that they have unused asphalt from a recently completed job and they prefer handshake deals or verbal contracts instead of written contracts, but a handshake deal. They also insist on cash payment for their services. At the end of the day, these contractors leave their victims with a badly paved driveway or a half-done job. Sometimes they may offer to complete the job for an extra fee.
  • Fly-By-Night Scams: In this type of scheme, out-of-state contractors will show up, offering you too-good-to-be-true discounts on home improvement and roofing products. They also give you unbelievably low estimates for home improvement projects. In the end, they do shoddy work with inferior materials, leaving you with a substandard product or a sub-par service. In some cases, these transient contractors may initially offer you very low verbal quotes before eventually adding extra costs as the project progresses. After the project is concluded, you find out that the total cost of the project is substantially higher than the “verbally quoted” costs you were given. It is therefore advisable to get a written fee quote and frequently reference it during the project.
  • Door-To-Door Energy Audit Fraud: In this scam, unscrupulous individuals visit homeowners and offer to help set their homes up in ways that will qualify them for federal and state energy rebates. However, these contractors are not recognized as energy audit contractors, and accepting their offers also exposes you to the risk of theft. It would be wise to reject such an offer and report to the local utility authorities, who usually have a list of recognized energy audit contractors.
  • Moving Company Scam: This kind of scam involves a contractor offering to provide moving services during a home improvement project without giving you a written quote. This is then followed by the contractor hiking the final fee upon delivery. Refusing to pay this outrageous price usually results in the contractor holding your items hostage until you agree to do so. It is a good idea to hire these types of contractors based on recommendation from family and friends. Also, you should always ask for a written and signed quote from any contractor that you hire.

It is important to note that per the Maine Home Construction Contracts Act, contractors cannot request more than one-third of the total cost of a project as initial payments.

In March 2021, the Office of the Attorney General’s of Maine reported that the owner of a now-defunct construction company had been indicted by a Grand Jury in a home improvement scam case involving about 57 consumers and more than $500,000. An arrest warrant was subsequently issued for the scammer, who had earlier fled the state. In a similar case, a roofing contractor was charged with felony theft after collecting $25,000 from an 83 year old woman as down payment for a project without buying any job materials or starting any work. These cases serve to underscore the importance of carrying out proper due diligence before hiring a home improvement contractor.

As a general precautionary measure, it is advisable to never take chances when you suspect that a contractor is being evasive or cannot provide satisfactory answers to your inquiries. This is because even in cases where the state is able to successfully sue and secure claims against fraudulent contractors in court successfully, these contractors are typically unable to speedily pay any restitution because they are usually either bankrupt and judgment proof or they have absconded from the state.

What are Disaster Scams in Maine?

There have been more than 60 natural disasters in Maine between 1952 and 2019. Disaster scams in Maine are fraud schemes directed at citizens of the state who have suffered property or home damage as a result of both natural and other man-made disasters. While it is understandable to feel restless and desperate after disasters like fires, floods, and earthquakes, it is also necessary to take extra caution when hiring contractors to rebuild your home. This is because fraudulent contractors use these disasters as an opportunity to prey on vulnerable homeowners. Some of these contractors and property improvement companies may even claim to have an agreement with your insurance provider. Listed below are measures that you can take to avoid becoming a victim of a disaster scam:

  • Take your time before hiring a property repair contractor and resist the urge to hire the first contractor that shows up on your doorstep. It is better to select from a pool of contractors after considering their qualifications, experience, and price quotes
  • Make your final hiring decision based on the strength of references provided
  • Find out whether there are any local licenses and permits required for the project. If your project will also require the involvement of state-regulated professionals like plumbers and electricians, then you should authenticate these professionals' licenses.
  • Ask for verifiable copies of the contractor's general liability and worker’s compensation insurance Confirm with the local Home Builders Association and the state’s consumer protection officials that the contractor has not been a subject of consumer complaints
  • Ensure that a clearly-worded contract agreement is drawn up. It is advisable to get an attorney to review this contract before you sign it
  • Make sure that your initial deposit does not exceed one-third of the total project cost, complete payment only after the project has been completed, and make all payments by check or credit card
  • Do not agree to or sign a consent of owner statement, as this will make you liable for material and labor costs if the contractor fails to pay. Ask the contractor to provide a lien waiver stipulating that you owe no financial obligations to the workers and suppliers once you pay the contractor for the project

Homeowners in Maine can report disaster scams to the Consumer Credit Protection Unit of the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation. Complaints may be lodged online, by downloading, completing, and submitting a complaint form via mail-in to:

  • Department of Professional & Financial Regulation
  • Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection
  • 35 State House Station
  • Augusta, ME 04333

Complaints can also be made in person visit at:

  • Department of Professional & Financial Regulation
  • Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection
  • 76 Northern Avenue
  • Gardiner, ME 04345

What are Common Legal
Work Scams in Maine?

Legal work scams in Maine are dubious attorney activities carried out with the deliberate purpose of duping unsuspecting individuals. These activities may be carried out by actual attorneys or by con artists posing as attorneys. Some common legal work scams in Maine involve:

  • Attorneys conniving with other fraudulent individuals to draw up contracts with the deliberate intent to swindle unsuspecting individuals of their hard-earned money
  • Attorneys offer “credit counseling” services that are supposed to help debt-overwhelmed individuals get a clean slate or negotiate lower payments and interest rates. In reality, these attorneys charge clients, receive large upfront payments, and end up being unable to secure the “debt relief.”

Taking the following steps will prevent you from falling victim to legal work scam in Maine:

  • Ensure that you work only with reputable attorneys that have a stainless track record by checking with the Maine Board of Overseers of the Bar on (207)-623-1121
  • Always have a good idea of what your attorney’s responsibilities are with regards to the case at hand, and an estimation of how much that will cost you.
  • Keep away from attorneys that require you to transfer all of your money or holdings to a specific institution or advisor.
  • Seek a second opinion and have another qualified attorney look at the contract terms and conditions if you suspect foul play from a particular attorney.
  • Remember that you have three business days to cancel consumer contracts that are signed at acceptable trade premises.

Report all cases of legal work fraud to the Consumer Protection Department of the Office of the Attorney General. You should also report any alleged scam activities involving an attorney reported to the Board of the Overseers of the Bar in Maine.

How Long Does it Take to Get a Contractor License in
Maine?

Home improvement contractors are generally not issued state-level licenses in Maine. However, some local government authorities may require licensing for the contractors that wish to operate within their jurisdictions. The time it takes to obtain a contractor license in these jurisdictions is heavily dependent on the licensing authority that is responsible for issuing the required license.

Note that although home improvement contractors are not required to obtain state-level licenses, professionals like electricians, architects, and plumbers, are typically required to do so. The processing time for this state-level professional licensing largely depends on the type of license that was applied for and the volume of applications received in the period. Applications are generally processed on a first-come-first-served basis, and applicants can check the status of their applications online. If the relevant state licensing board has received the license application, the name used on the application will show up in a licensee search with a “pending” status. Once a license has been approved, the license status changes from “pending” to “approved.”

How to Maintain Your License in Maine

Licensed professionals in Maine are required to report any changes in their license information to the relevant licensing board within ten days of these changes. This usually includes any changes in name, location, email as well as changes in criminal conviction or disciplinary status. Changes in contact information can be made online. However, any name change must be done in writing and submitted to the Office of Professional and Occupational Regulation (OPOR). Licensees can also contact their respective licensing boards for instructions on how to submit a name change in person. Likewise, the guidelines for maintaining locally issued licenses are determined by the licensing authorities that issue these licenses.

Note that licensing agencies typically have the power to suspend or revoke the license of a non-compliant licensee. As such, licensees are always expected to obtain and acquaint themselves with the relevant rules and laws of their respective professions. Some grounds under which a professional license can be revoked or suspended include non-compliance with parental support obligations and court-ordered fine, fee, or restitution.

The Office of Professional and Occupational Regulation (OPOR) is located at:

  • Department of Professional & Financial Regulation
  • 35 State House Station
  • Augusta, ME 04333
  • Phone: (207) 624-8500

On the other hand, per Maine Bar Rule 5, a mandatory condition for attorneys that wish to maintain their licenses in Maine is undergoing and reporting a minimum of 11 hours of Continuing Legal Education (CLE) annually. An hour of this education must be professional responsibility or ethics. Also, half of the total 11 hours have to be by physical modes of learning such as workshops and seminars, while the remainder may be completed through self-study. Active members of the state bar must also update any changes to their current addresses and emails by completing a Contact Information Change Form.

How to Renew a Contractor License in
Maine

All professional licenses in Maine have to be renewed 60 days before their expiration date. These renewals are done online. To complete an online license renewal, applicants will need to provide their access code and complete license number. Professionals that have lost their access codes have to reach out to their respective regulatory boards for support.

Similarly, Rule 4 of the Maine Bar requires attorneys who have been admitted into the state bar association for the practice of law to complete an online annual registration with the Board of Overseers of the Bar. This registration must be done between July 1st and August 31st and active attorneys or judges that fail to complete it during this timeframe will have to pay a non-waivable fee of $50 for late assessment.