What Are Rhode Island Contractors?
There are approximately 20,000 licensed contractors in the State of Rhode Island. Rhode Island requires that all individuals and businesses engaged in construction, repairs, alterations, and remodeling to be registered with the State of Rhode Island Contractors’ Registration and Licensing Board (RI CRLB).
Contractors and General Contractors are hired to oversee various projects across the state. Such projects may range from large construction jobs to small house repairs. Typically, the employer explains the job and the contractor signs an agreement outlining the scope of the work, the payment amounts, and timing. The contractor is usually provided a partial payment before the start of the job. This payment provides initial funding for the job materials and hiring possible subcontractors, to assist the contractor in delivering on the contract promise.
This opens up employers of contractors to possible scams. If the money is paid, the contractor can disappear before starting or fully completing the contract terms. The best option to protect from such a scam is to hire an attorney. Attorneys are licensed professionals, who can help employers with drafting a good contract.
Tips to Take Before Hiring a Contractor
in Rhode Island
The process of hiring contractors carries inherent risks, so the Rhode Island residents should be diligent during the selection and hiring process of a new contractor, by following some tips:
- Solicit and compare multiple bids for the job from several different contractors, while using the same set of criteria. This allows for an even comparison.
- Verify the current licensing and registration of the proposed contractor in the State of Rhode Island Contractors’ Registration and Licensing Board (CRLB). Every contractor, subcontractor, and remodeler in the business of repairing or building structures must be registered and listed. If a consumer hires an unlicensed contractor and the final work is done without a permit and not in accordance with the local code, the consumer will be liable for the cost of repairs, to meet that code.
- Verify that the contractor is fully insured and bonded, prior to allowing the contracting staff to work on the private property. Otherwise, the property owner may be liable for any accident that occurs during the project. Consumers should ask for a copy of the certificate of insurance and during high-cost projects - to be listed as the named certificate holder.
- Obtain the references from the contractor’s previous jobs.
- Find out what kind of warranty will the contractor provide after the job is complete.
- Avoid verbal contracts. They are much harder to enforce. Insist on a written contract and make sure that all contracts must contain the contractor’s registration number from the CRLB.
- Make sure that the contract contains relevant information like a description of the work that is to be completed and the materials that are to be used, the total price of the project, the payment schedule, and a starting and completion date of work. It should also include a list of subcontractors that are expected to participate in the job and their contact information, a possible mechanic's lien notice against any of the parties involved in the projects, and any other relevant clarification information.
- Make sure to maintain all receipts for the entire project, at least until the work and the parts warranty periods end.
How to Search a Contractor’s License in Rhode Island?
Contractors in Rhode Island are generally required to undergo mandatory registration with the state’s Contractors’ Registration and Licensing (CRLB) Board. This board also issues licenses to certain categories of contractors, such as commercial roofing contractors and underground utility contractors. Similarly, specialty contractors like plumbers, electricians, and refrigeration mechanics are issued professional licenses by the state’s Division of Professional Regulation. You can confirm the registration and licensing status of Rhode Island contractors via the CRLB’s Registration/License Status Lookup portal. This portal provides search fields like the contractor’s registration or license number, the contractor’s names, the contractor type, and the contractor’s company name, and you will be required to provide information in at least one of these fields to perform a contractor search. Likewise, you can check the licenses of specialty contractors via the Division of Professional Regulation’s License Search portal. You will be required to provide the contractor’s specific trade, as well as other optional information like the contractor’s names, license number, company name, location, and phone number.
Contractors that violate the CRLB’s mandatory registration requirement can face several consequences, the severity of which is dependent on whether the contractor is a first-time or repeat offender. As stipulated by Section 5-65-10 of the Rhode Island Code, non-registered individuals that perform contractor-related work can face a fine of up to $5,000 for their first offense and fines of up to $10,000 for each subsequent offense.
How Much Does a Contractor Charge in
Contractor pricing in Rhode Island can vary according to the type of project, the local market, time of the year, the demand for a particular skill, and how the professional is being hired. When a general contractor hires subcontractors according to the needed skill, they might be able to negotiate a lower group rate or hire them at an employee rate, similar to full-time employment. In return, the general contractor adds a fee on top of the salary to their employees and passes this extra cost to the project employer.
In 2019, the majority of construction contractors hired on long-term projects in Rhode Island fell into the $15-$30 hourly range. The difference between the minimum and maximum rates is based on the experience level, with the highly specialized skills billing in the range of $20-40 per hour. Some common contractor cost estimates in Rhode Island are:
Consumers should expect to pay higher hourly wages for smaller projects that require only a few hours to complete and the service is performed a-la-carte. Costs for such a short-term contractor can more than double the regular wage.
Quite frequently, employers of contractors may have to challenge the completed work quality in court. If a consumer hires an attorney in the state of Rhode Island, the hourly costs can be anywhere from $30 to $600 per hour, based on the attorney’s experience, qualifications, and the scale of the case.
What Are Home Improvement
Scams in Rhode Island?
There are a variety of common home improvement scams in Rhode Island, which are frequently aimed at the senior population. A result of such scams is usually a loss of money by the consumer when:
- A contractor does not show up to do the job after collecting the payment.
- A contractor does not pay the subcontractor for the completed job and disappears with the money. This may result in the sub-contractor coming after the property owner, to collect the compensation and possibly placing a lien on the property.
If a consumer needs to report a scam, it can be done by contacting the Office of the Attorney General of the State of Rhode Island at:
- Rhode Island Office of the Attorney General
- 150 South Main Street
- Providence, RI 02903
- (401) 274-4400
What are Common Home Improvement Scams in Rhode Island?
High-Pressure sales tactics and unsolicited job proposals top the list of the most common Rhode Island home improvement scams. Statistically, the senior citizen demographic group is the most targeted by scammers in Rhode Island. Some common scam tactics used by fraudulent contractors include:
- A contractor applies high-pressure sales tactics, in order to close the deal on the spot, without giving the consumer a chance to do diligent research and compare the bids.
- A contractor offers cash-only or high up-front cost deals, to induce the victim to pay right away and skips out on the job after receiving the payment.
- A contractor reaches out to the consumer without being asked to do so and proposes a job. While some of these may be genuine, unsolicited job proposals are usually a “red flag” of a possible scam. Consumers should never sign any contracts without doing at least some investigation on the origins and prior work of the contractor.
The best way to avoid being scammed or defrauded by a contractor is to be proactive and retain an attorney who deals with the contract law before hiring the contractor. This allows the attorney to go over the proposed contract terms before signing and makes the possible legal action much easier in case if the contractor defaults on the given promises.
While the State of Rhode Island does not have a legal down payment requirement for residential contractors, the advisable amount is up to 10% of the total project cost. Ten percent is usually enough for the contractor to purchase starting materials and to hire the crew.
In 2020, the Rhode Island Attorney General charged 19 contractors for performing substandard work or not finishing the job that they were paid for. At first, the contractors are given a chance to resolve the deficiencies in their work, but those who do not comply face further punishment. Cases involving less than $5,000 in fees constitute misdemeanors, punishable by up to 1 year in prison and fines up to $1,000, while cases with fees over $5,000 are prosecuted as felonies and are punishable with a prison term of up to 10 years and a fine of up to $10,000.
What are Disaster Scams in Rhode Island?
Disaster scams usually happen in an area that has recently suffered some kind of disaster. The affected residents may be overwhelmed by the events and can be an easier target for the scammers.
Most disaster scams involve solicitation for money:
- Scammers pretend to call from a government assistance agency, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Small Business Administration (SBA), or from Rhode Island’s Department of Human Services. The caller ID might be spoofed to look official. If the caller claims to be a government official, consumers are advised to hang up and call back the phone number found on the government agency’s official website. If the caller pretending to be a government employee asks for money as a fee for an application for disaster assistance, then it is a scam.
- Scammers may call pretending to be from the victim’s insurance company or an affiliated organization. Consumers should never give out any personal information or agree to make any payments until they can personally verify that the call is real.
- Due to the possible shortage of rental properties in an area recently struck by a disaster, scammers may participate in price gouging, by offering rentals and services for exorbitant prices. If a business is observed to be increasing its prices, especially immediately before or during a declared state of emergency, such illegal violations must be reported to the Consumer Protection Unit of the Office of the Attorney General or Rhode Island at (401) 274-4400.
What are Common Legal
Legal work scams can be broken down into two main groups of fraud:
- Legal Representation Scams,
- Personal Information and Documentation Fraud.
A legal representation scam occurs when the scammer poses as a lawyer, by advertising services that they are not qualified to perform. Scammers may use the names of real law firms, with emails and phone numbers spoofed to look like the real thing. Consumers should never trust anyone reaching out to them, offering unsolicited services, and should contact the businesses in question back, by calling the number listed on the official company website.
The most common legal fraud in Rhode Island is the Document and Personal Information fraud. This is when the supposed attorney offers to create a legal document with the purpose of:
- Stealing the personal information listed in it, to use themselves or to resell it to other scammers, so the same victim can be targeted again and again.
- Billing the client for extraneous and not required documentation, where the lawyer is being paid for the amount of work done and types of documents filed. Unsuspecting victims may be paying extra for something that they did not need, but for what the lawyer fraudulently claimed was required.
The other basic type of legal work scam in Rhode Island is collecting a retainer amount from the client and disappearing without doing the work. The most common areas of law, susceptible to such scams are:
- Immigration law. A large portion of the clients do not speak English as the first language and are more likely to not understand the guiding laws and fees associated with the work.
- Bankruptcy law. For most people who are forced into bankruptcy, it happens just once in a lifetime, so the majority of filers have to fully rely on the expertise of the attorney representing them. This creates an opportunity for an unscrupulous lawyer to increase the billing.
- Taxes and audits. Both present numerous opportunities for legal professionals to steal important financial and personal information.
- Insurance, accidents, injury, and disability claims. All these cases present ample opportunity for an attorney to defraud the client.
To avoid being a target of a legal work scam, consumers should do their research on the attorney firm prior to providing any personally identifiable information (PII) or making a payment to them. Rhode Island Bar Association recommends using their Lawyer Referral Service (LRS) to be connected to trusted, competent, and reliable attorneys. This can be done via the online form, or by calling the LRS office at (401) 421-7799. Elderly Rhode Island residents may seek the Lawyer referral by calling LRS at (401) 521-5040 or by email.
Attorneys that commit fraud in Rhode Island are subject to disciplinary actions. Consumers can report suspected fraudulent activities by their attorneys to the Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Rhode Island at:
- Chief Disciplinary Counsel at the Philip W. Noel Judicial Complex
- 222 Quaker Lane
- Room 1083
- Warwick, RI 02886
- Phone: (401) 823-5710
Note that the impersonation of an attorney is considered identity theft, and impersonators can be imprisoned for up to 10 years, with fines of up to $15,000, depending on the number of previous convictions.
How Long Does it Take to Get a License in
It usually takes seven to ten business days to obtain a contractor's license in the State of Rhode Island. Licenses are issued for a two-year term by the State of Rhode Island Contractors’ Registration and Licensing Board.
How to Maintain your License in Rhode Island
In order to maintain an active contractor license and registration, all contractors registered in the state of Rhode Island are required to complete five (5) hours of CRLB Board-Approved Continuing Education courses during the two-year licensing period.
Maintaining an active license for attorneys in Rhode Island requires the completion of at least 10 hours of Continuing Education (CE) every year, with at least two (2) of those hours in the subject of Ethics. CE content is regulated by the National Continuing Legal Education Regulators Association, and the attorneys report the completion of their annual training to the Rhode Island Supreme Court online.
How to Renew Contractor License in
To renew the two-year general contractor license in Rhode Island, the applicant must:
- Fulfill the required 5 hours of Continuing Education.
- Confirm the existence of the $500,000 certificate of liability, showing Rhode Island CRLB as the certificate holder.
- Submit a $200 Renewal Fee through the online portal or via mail-in to:
- Rhode Island Contractors’ Registration and Licensing Board
- 560 Jefferson Boulevard
- Warwick, RI 02886
If the license registration has expired, the contractor will be required to pay a late fee of an additional $50. If the registration has lapsed for over 6 months, then the contractor will also be required to retake the mandatory instructor-led Pre-Registration Course.
Highly specialized contractors have additional renewal requirements, which are license-specific. For example, master plumbers pay a renewal fee of $240 and do not have any continuing education requirements, while master electricians must show proof of completing 15 hours of mandatory continuing education during the two-year validity period of their licenses. Similarly, contractors that have a commercial roofing license must complete 20 hours of continuing education from a state-approved provider over a two-year period.
On the other hand, attorneys do not need to renew their licenses, as long as they complete the 10 hours of Continuing Legal Education (CLE) every year. Upon completion, CLE confirmation must be submitted to the Rhode Island Supreme Court through a portal.