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What Are Montana Contractors?

The Business Standards Division of the Montana Department of Labor and Industry is responsible for overseeing more than 35 occupational and professional licensing boards and programs in the state and ensuring that licensees comply with professional rules and codes of conduct. These licensees include professionals in areas like architecture, real estate appraising, land surveying, construction, and engineering.

A Montana contractor is any individual or business that undertakes or offers to undertake home and property construction and improvement services. Except for electricians, plumbers, civil or professional engineers, and contract security companies, who are licensed by the Business Standards Division, Montana contractors are not required to obtain a state-issued license. However, contractors that are not issued state-level licenses are still required to register with the Montana Department of Labor and Industry, which is the agency responsible for enforcing the state labor standards, occupational health laws, and workers compensation system. There are currently over 11,600 registered contractors in Montana. Note that plumbers, electricians, and engineers that are solely operating within the scope of their licenses do not need to register with the Department of Labor and Industry.

Other professionals in the state are also licensed by different agencies. For example, attorneys and educators are licensed by the Montana State Bar and Office of Public Instruction respectively. There are over 7,000 licensed attorneys currently operating in Montana.

Tips for Hiring a Contractor
in Montana

Contracting the right person for home improvement is the only way to avoid disputes, poor services, and potential court cases. Below are some useful tips to consider when hiring a new contractor:

  • Research the project to know what it involves before choosing a contractor
  • Get bids from several contractors
  • Get at least two to three written estimates from different contractors, compare them, and meet with each contractor before choosing anyone
  • Obtain references and follow them up
  • Request to see proof of license or registration. You can use the Contractor Registration Search Portal to verify if the contractor is registered and the License Search Portal to verify if the contractor is licensed.
  • Request current insurance coverage and check if the contractor is insured by contacting the insurance company
  • Ask the contractor for a current bond and call the bonding company to verify the information. A bond may be the only to get compensation if the contractor fails to do the job
  • Do not make checks payable to any other person other than the contractor
  • Always request a receipt for each payment made
  • Consider hiring an attorney to handle the details of the contract

Members of the public should understand that they have the right to report any unprofessional activity to the Montana Office of Consumer Protection by calling (406) 444-4500.

How to Search a Contractor’s License in Montana?

In Montana, you can utilize the DLI’s License Search and Construction Contractor Registration Search portals to search for and authenticate a Montana contractor’s licensing or registration status respectively.

The regulation of contractors in Montana is handled by the several occupational and professional licensing boards domiciled in the state’s Department of Labor and Industry (DLI). These include the Montana Board of Plumbers and the Montana State Electrical Board, which issue professional licenses to plumbing and electrical contractors respectively. Similarly, construction contractors are also required to register with the DLI.

Note, working with a registered contractor protects you from any of the employer-related liabilities laid out in Section 39-71-405 of the Montana Code Annotated. Likewise, construction contractors that fail to register with the DLI or work with a suspended registration can receive a fine of up to $500 per violation. Finally, per Section 37-1-317 of the Montana Code Annotated, contracting without an appropriate license is a misdemeanor offense. Each violation of this law is punishable by a fine of anywhere between $250 and $1,000, imprisonment in a county jail for a period of 90 days to one year, or both.

How Much Does a Contractor Charge in
Montana?

In Montana, the cost of hiring a contractor is generally dependent on factors such as the amount of labor required to complete a job, the type of construction activity involved, and the cost of materials. The average estimated cost of hiring a contractor in the State for one hour is between $16 - $90. Listed below are the hourly costs estimate for various contractors in Montana:

Carpenter
$20 - $70
Plumber
$33 - $85
Electrician
$27 - $70
Painters
$19 - $40
Drywall installation /repair contractors
$17 - $50
Landscaping contractors
$16 - $35
Civil engineer
$36 - $80
Solar installation contractors
$22 - $50
Concrete finisher
$20 - $45

In addition to these services, you may contact an attorney to handle your home improvement paperwork or other contracts that are not construction-related. The average cost of hiring an attorney in the State of Montana is $40 - $150 per hour.

What are Home Improvement
Scams in Montana?

When you are trying to hire someone for home improvement in Montana, there is always a possibility that the contractor is an unscrupulous individual trying to steal your money through deceptive methods which include:

  • Failing to complete the job after receiving payment
  • Deliberately slowing down the work to drive up labor costs
  • Failing to pay for supplies even after collecting money for them. Under state law, a material supplier can seize a property if the contractor or homeowner fails to make proper payment for materials supplied during the course of construction. This is irrespective of whether or not the homeowner has previously paid the contractor for the supplies in question.

A home improvement scam is the use of any of the aforementioned methods to steal money from unsuspecting citizens. While it is difficult to eliminate home improvement scams, you can reduce your chances of falling victim to one by taking some important steps. First, you must research the project you want to carry out, and the type of service you need. This helps you to know what the project entails and who is qualified to handle it. You must always research the state regulation that applies to the contractor you want to hire. Plumbers, electricians, and engineers must be licensed by the Business Standards Division, while other contractors are required to register with the Department of Labor and Industry. Finally, you must always ensure that the contractor is insured and bonded. This puts you in a better position to deal with unforeseen circumstances including accidents and a contractor's refusal to complete the project.

If you suspect a home improvement fraud, report it to the Montana Office of Consumer Protection by calling (406) 444-4500. If the contractor you hired is involved in any unprofessional conduct, report the situation to the Department of Labor and Industry by calling (406) 444-2840.

Professional License Search

What are Common Home Improvement Scams in Montana?

Home Improvement scammers are always looking for new ways to steal money from unsuspecting citizens. Generally, these scams thrive in warm weather or following harsh weather or natural disasters and they are targeted at elderly citizens in the State. Common tactics used by home improvement swindlers include:

  • Door-to-door solicitations: home improvement scammers show up in front of your door offering to perform services like home installation, carpentry, and painting at very cheap rates. Scammers may claim they have leftover materials from a job they completed nearby, so they can do your job at half the price. Do not fall for this, the plan is to persuade you into paying money and then never returning to get the job done.
  • High-pressure sales tactics: home improvement scammers always pressure their victims to pay for home repairs they do not need. In many cases, scammers offer free home inspection to trick you into believing you need immediate home repair.
  • Use of unmarked trucks or vans: home improvement scammers often show up in unmarked trucks. They claim the vehicle is only temporary as the main company vehicle is faulty. In many cases, scammers may wear safety vests and name tags to appear legitimate. The plan is to make you believe it is safe to contract them for home repairs.
  • Very low bids: home improvement scammers generally offer cheap rates. In many cases, you will be informed that the low bids are a result of a promo or discount the company is giving. However, once payment is made, they never return to do the job.
  • Immediate service offers: home improvement scammers generally claim they are available and ready to start your project immediately or as soon as possible.

Montana allows contractors to request down payment for materials to be used in construction projects. Per state law, contractors are required to submit a monthly progress payment request and final payment request to the homeowner or property owner. This payment request will include the actual or estimated work performed and materials supplied during the preceding month. A payment request is considered approved 21 days after the homeowner receives the request unless the homeowner sends a written statement to the contractor disapproving specific items in the request. Payment requests are often disapproved when there is a dispute on the amount of work done, materials used, or when the contractor fails to correct defective construction. It is advisable to always speak to an attorney on matters relating to home improvement work, especially with regards to the payment request law in the state.

You can report a contractor for unprofessional conduct to the Business Standards Division by downloading, completing, and mailing a complaint form to:

  • Business Standards Division
  • Professional Licensing Bureau
  • Compliance Unit
  • P.O. Box 200514
  • Helena, MT 59620-0514

However, if the contractor is registered, report inappropriate conduct to the Montana Department of Labor and Industry by calling (406) 444-2840. A complaint filed against a registered contractor can result in suspension or revocation of their registration certificate. There are currently 10 revoked independent contractor certificates and over 450 suspended contractors in Montana, and these penalties are for a range of offenses that include failing to complete projects after receiving payment.

What are Disaster Scams in Montana?

Montana disaster scams are scams targeted at residents of Montana whose homes and properties were affected by fire, earthquake, storm, flood, or any other disaster. Victims of disasters need to be careful with how they go about home repairs and improvements and watch out for unscrupulous individuals who are ready to take advantage of their misfortune. Contractor-related disaster scams include price gouging, deception, diversion of materials, and not showing up to get the work done. You can avoid disaster scams by doing the following:

  • Taking your time to research the project
  • Getting recommendations from friends and family
  • Ensuring that you receive bids from two to three contractors before hiring anyone
  • Being wary of door-to-door solicitors promising to speed up the home repair process
  • Requesting state permits or licenses from anyone approaching you for disaster-related service
  • Getting receipts for all repair payments including cash

Members of the public can report disaster scams to the Montana Office of Consumer Protection by calling (406) 444-4500.

What are Common Legal
Work Scams in Montana?

Montana legal work scams are fraudulent attorney-related services that aim at stealing money from unsuspecting citizens. These scams may be done by licensed attorneys or imposters. The most prevalent legal work scams in Montana include:

  • Imposter scams: where scammers impersonate employees of the State Department of Justice (DOJ) to steal from innocent citizens. Scammers often call and inform you that they are investigators from the DOJ in need of your help. The plan is to steal sensitive or confidential information from you.
  • Living Trust Mills: where scammers deceptively promise to protect your estate from probate by making false claims about living trusts and other estate planning tools, all in a bid to collect upfront fees from you. It is estimated that consumers in Montana lose between $500 to $5,000 to living trust scams annually. These scams are mostly targeted at elderly people, especially if you are age 50 or above.

Some ways you can avoid falling victim to a legal work scam in Montana include:

  • Not responding to an offer you do not understand
  • Avoid buying or agreeing to a deal on impulse
  • Not giving in to pressure tactics requesting you to act immediately
  • Taking sufficient time to properly weigh your options before making any financial decisions
  • Not hesitating to talk to a knowledgeable person who can advise you on purchasing a living trust
  • Looking for a licensed Montana attorney who is an expert in estate planning

If you suspect a legal work scam, report it by downloading, completing, and sending a grievance cover sheet along with a written explanation of your reason for filing the complaint to Montana State Bar's Office of Disciplinary Counsel.

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

The processing time for completing the license application process and obtaining a license in Montana is dependent on factors such as the current workload of the professional board issuing the license and when the application was submitted. An application may be delayed if the applicant fails to provide all the requirements for obtaining a license. Applicants are required to complete courses and examinations appropriate to their professions to be eligible for licensing. Applications for contractor licenses can be completed online via the Ebiz Online Portal. Utilizing this portal requires setting up a user account, and this involves providing a correct name, date of birth, address, city, and zip code, and choosing a username and password after completing all the registration requirements. Once the account registration is complete, applicants can log in to use the new license application link.

Note that contractors in Montana who are not required to obtain a state-issued license are required to register with the Montana Department of Labor and Industry. It takes five to seven business days to process a contractor registration in Montana. Note that this timeframe depends on the volume of applications at the time the request was made. To obtain a contractor registration certificate, applicants are required to read, complete, and mail a contractor registration application form to:

  • Montana Department of Labor and Industry
  • Registration Section
  • P.O. Box 8011
  • Helena, MT 59604801

Home inspection workers are also required to register with the Montana Department of Labor and Industry. Applicants are required to read, complete, and mail a home inspection registration application form to:

  • Montana Department of Labor and Industry
  • Registration Section
  • P.O. Box 8011
  • Helena, MT 59604801

Registration fees vary by trade and these fees can be paid via the state’s online payment portal.

How to Maintain Your License in Montana

Montana contractors are allowed to maintain or update the information on their licenses from anywhere using the Ebiz online licensing portal. You can change your address, phone number, and email address by logging into the licensing portal and selecting the account management option. Changing your information here will update your license records immediately. However, to change the name on a license certificate, you will be required to send a written notification to:

  • Business Standards Division
  • P.O. Box 200513
  • Helena, MT 59620-0513

Alternatively, contractors that are registered under the Montana Department of Labor and Industry can update their registration information by submitting a written request to:

  • Montana Department of Labor and Industry
  • P.O. Box 8011
  • Helena, MT 59601

Finally, attorneys in Montana are also allowed to update their information by logging into the State Bar membership portal. A written request including your date of birth and bar membership number may also be sent via email to the Montana Bar in an attempt to change information on your license. In addition, all active attorneys in Montana must complete at least 15 credits of continuing legal education every year.

How to Renew a Contractor License in
Montana

Montana contractor licenses are valid for a period of one to two years depending on the specific profession. For example, a plumbing license is valid for one year while an electrician license is valid for two years. The processes, fees, and requirements for contractor license renewal also vary across professions. License renewal can be completed by calling the renewal unit at (406) 444-6880 or through the Ebiz online licensing portal. Note that using the call option during the last days of renewal could result in delays in getting your license renewed. The Business Standard Division typically responds to requests for renewal via phone within 72 hours of receiving such calls.

To renew online, applicants are required to log in to the Ebiz online licensing portal, click the renew license button in their license records, and upload any document necessary to complete the renewal. Once you have submitted the necessary documents, you will be required to enter your payment information to complete the renewal.

On the other hand, Montana attorneys renew their license through the payment of annual fees and assessments. Interested persons may renew their license online or by sending a written request to the State Bar via mail. To renew online, log in to your State Bar membership portal, click on the pay dues/change contact information button, and select the renew your membership now link. Applicants who do not want to use the online renewal option can mail a written request for renewal with applicable fees to:

  • Montana Supreme Court Clerk’s Office
  • P.O. Box 203003
  • Helena, MT 59620

Cities in Montana