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What Are South Carolina Contractors?

South Carolina contractors are individuals that carry out construction services such as the repair, alteration, and improvement of buildings and structures. There are over 30 contractor license classifications in the state, including concrete paving, specialty roofing, structural framing, plumbing, electrical, heating, and air conditioning, and these contractors must obtain a state-issued license from the South Carolina Department of Labor Licensing and Regulation before they can work on any project that is valued at $5,000 and above. This license also enables contractors to get permits from the appropriate authorities for a property improvement job.

It is important to note that contractors are not the only professionals that require licensing in South Carolina. For example, the South Carolina Bar oversees the licensing and regulation of the over 10,700 active attorneys currently practicing in the state. Similarly, other professionals such as doctors, realtors, nurses, pharmacists, and psychologists also require a license to operate in South Carolina.

Tips for Hiring a Contractor
in South Carolina

Construction and home improvement projects can be very costly, and working with an unqualified contractor can increase these expenses. As such, home and property owners in South Carolina must take appropriate steps when hiring a contractor. Below are some helpful tips to consider before you hire a contractor:

  • Do your research and find out as much as you can about your intended project. Understand what it entails, and the type of contractor services that you would need
  • Get recommendations on contractors from friends, neighbors, and colleagues who may have handled a similar project before
  • Verify the licensing of potential contractors with the Department of Labor Licensing and Regulation
  • Get estimates from different contractors
  • Make sure that the contractor you end up selecting obtains all necessary permits for the project
  • Make sure that the contractor, as well as any subcontractors that may be involved in the project, are properly insured
  • Minimize down payments. It is advisable to limit initial deposits to 10% - 25% of the total project cost.
  • Draw a contract that captures your expectations, defines the contractor’s obligations, and indicates timelines. It is a good idea to get an experienced attorney to help you with this
  • Do not pay cash. Make use of traceable means of payment
  • Get a receipt for every payment you make to a contractor or subcontractor on your project
  • Keep a record of everything about the project, particularly receipts.
  • Withhold final payments until you have done a thorough inspection of the job

How to Search a Contractor’s License in South Carolina?

Contractors that wish to perform work above $5,000 in South Carolina are required to obtain a General and Mechanical Contractor’s License from the Contractor’s Licensing Board of the state’s Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation (LLR). This license authorizes contractors to work on commercial, industrial, and residential projects. However, contractors that wish to perform only residential work for less than $5,000 can obtain a separate license or registration from the LLR’s Residential Builders Commission. You can contact this commission at (803) 896-4696 for more information on the requirements for obtaining a residential builder’s license or registration.

The LLR also provides interested members of the public with an online Licensee Lookup portal that can be used to search for contractor licenses in South Carolina.

Title 40 of the South Carolina Code of Laws stipulates the rules and requirements for different professions and occupations in the state. Per sections 40-11-200 and 40-59-200 of this law, working without an appropriate contractor’s license is considered a criminal offense, and violators can face penalties of imprisonment for up to two years, fines of up to $5,000, or a combination of both.

How Much Does a Contractor Charge in
South Carolina?

Although contractor rates in South Carolina vary according to the specific profession, contractors in the state typically charge between $10 to $70 per hour. Many contractors work for themselves, so their hourly rate is based on their evaluation of the job. In South Carolina, some common contractor hourly cost estimates include:

Painters
$13 - $24
Brick, Block, and stonemasons
$11 - $25
Electricians
$15 - $33
Landscaping contractors
$17- $40
Architects
$25 - $70
Cost estimators
$16 - $48
Plumbers
$16 - $31
Drywall and ceiling contractors
$10 - $26
Carpenters
$14 - $36
Roofing contractors
$11 - $27
Structural iron and steel workers
$13 - $29
Insulation workers, floor ceiling and wall
$9 - $25
Carpet installers
$13 - $35
Construction laborers
$11 - $24
Glaziers
$13 - $26
Floor sanders and finishers
$10 - $25
Interior designers
$11 - $34
Security and fire alarm system installers
$13 - $31
Solar photovoltaic installers
$14 - $27

It is important to note that not all contractors charge an hourly rate. Some contractors charge a percentage of the construction cost, while other contractors charge a rate per unit of material. For example, some painters charge a rate per square foot or per square yard of surface area. Always find out how you will be charged for a project before hiring a contractor. You may also require the services of an attorney to prepare contract documents, vet agreements, and look out for your interests. Attorneys in South Carolina charge between $50 and $250 an hour for their services.

What Are Home Improvement
Scams in South Carolina?

In South Carolina, home improvement scams are fraudulent schemes targeted at homeowners in the state. Con artists know that property owners in South Carolina often look to repaint, remodel, rewire, re-roof, and repipe their homes to improve property value and they see this as an opportunity to defraud unsuspecting homeowners by obtaining money from them through various deceptive means. These usually include collecting payments for jobs and then not doing any work, charging standard prices for materials and then using inferior materials for the job, or doing a haphazard job that is not in tandem with the amount of money paid by the homeowner. While there is always the risk of employing a contractor that is a home improvement scammer, you can mitigate this risk by making sure that any contractor you hire has been duly licensed to work in the state. Verify this contractor’s license, and also make sure that the contractor is properly insured and bonded. Never pay the full cost of the project upfront and always insist on getting a written contract. It is also a good idea to hire an attorney to help you review this contract before you sign it.

Individuals who suspect foul play when working with a contractor can file a complaint with the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs. Alternatively, interested persons can also report scams to the office of the South Carolina Attorney General at:

  • Office of the South Carolina Attorney General
  • Rembert Dennis Building
  • 1000 Assembly Street
  • Room 519
  • Columbia, SC 29201
Professional License Search

What are Common Home Improvement Scams in South Carolina?

Home improvement scammers use a wide range of strategies to approach and defraud their targets, from soliciting over the phone to knocking on doors. In many cases, these scammers use these strategies to prey on the vulnerability of the elderly. Some common home improvement scams in South Carolina include:

  • Home Improvement Loan Scam: Here, a contractor offers to help a client to secure a loan for a home improvement project. The client is unknowingly roped into a home loan with high-interest rates and fees. The main aim of this scam is to get the property owner to sign up for the loan. In these cases, the quality of the job done is irrelevant to the contractor. You can avoid becoming a victim of this scam by being suspicious of contractors that offer to help you with financing for your project and doing your due diligence before accepting any loan offers.
  • Upsell Scams: Scammers approach property owners to do a specific job and then claim to discover other problems around the house that need immediate attention. The contractor then offers to carry out these repairs for a fee. In many cases, the homeowners later discover that they have spent money on things that did not need fixing at all. Always stick to the project that you hire a contractor for and get a second opinion if this contractor suggests any additional repairs.
  • Left-over Product Scam: Here, a dishonest contractor approaches a homeowner with left-over materials from another site and offers a discounted price for these materials. Unsuspecting homeowners grab what appears to be a great deal, while in reality, these materials are substandard. Be wary of contractors that offer you cheap work because they claim to have leftover materials. These types of contractors are usually scammers. Also, always inspect any materials that a contractor wants to use for your project and make sure that they are up to par.
  • Nomadic Contractor Scam: This scam involves a group of unlicensed contractors traveling across counties, knocking on doors, and offering professional services. However, these contractors are always unlicensed. This also makes them unable to acquire any necessary permits for the job. Always be suspicious of contractors that try to convince you that permits aren't necessary for a job. Inquire about the building permits requirements for your locality and also check a contractor's license status before commencing a project.
  • Low Price Scam: Here, fraudulent contractors offer low prices for their services. If hired, they end up performing a terrible job or taking a down payment and not doing any work at all. Do not be enticed by low prices and always do the necessary research on contractors before commencing a project.
  • Upfront Scam: Dishonest contractors ask for a substantial amount of down payment before commencing work on agreed projects and then never return to complete the job once this payment is made. Although South Carolina does not have any laws that limit how much contractors can receive as down payment, homeowners should always keep initial deposits as low as possible. It is advisable that any down payment you make should not exceed 30% of the total cost of the job.
  • False License Scam: Scammers present a fake construction license to property owners to secure a contract. Always do a contractor license check before hiring.

South Carolinians can report home improvement scams by filing a complaint with the state’s Department of Consumer Affairs.

In May 2021, the South Carolina Attorney General's Office announced that it would be cooperating with several other states Attorney Generals to combat scams and fraud, particularly those targeted at senior citizens, and urged leaders of congress to support the Fraud and Scam Reduction Act. The South Carolina Department of Labor Licensing and Regulation also regularly publishes public board orders that contain decisions made concerning contractors accused of home improvement scams. These board orders are available to the public.

What are Disaster Scams in South Carolina?

Disaster scams in South Carolina are scams targeted at homeowners after a recent disaster. Floods, hurricanes, wildfires, high winds, and earthquakes often leave extensive damages to properties and scammers use this as an avenue to take advantage of vulnerable homeowners by offering low prices for repair jobs and then providing substandard work. Sometimes, these scammers do not perform any work at all and they take off with any payments that they may have received. Listed below are tips that can help you avoid disaster scams in South Carolina:

  • Do not rush to hire contractors immediately after a disaster.
  • Always do due diligence before hiring any contractor. Verify the contractor's license, insurance, and bonding status.
  • Do not pay cash and never pay the full cost of the project upfront.
  • Get a written contract for any home repair job that you want to carry out
  • Make sure that the repairs you require are properly done before you make any final payments or sign any certificate of completion
  • Do not share vital information such as bank information with unknown persons that approach you with offers of project financing or other forms of help
  • Beware of rental listing scams. Many residents experience displacement from their homes due to disaster and fraudulent individuals use this opportunity to advertise fake property listings.

Victims of disaster scams can file a report with the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs and their respective local law enforcement agencies. Reports can also be made to the South Carolina Attorney General's Office at:

  • Office of the South Carolina Attorney General
  • Rembert Dennis Building
  • 1000 Assembly Street
  • Room 519
  • Columbia, SC 29201

What are Common Legal
Work Scams?

Legal work scams are fraudulent lawyer-related schemes designed to defraud unsuspecting individuals. In South Carolina, legal work scams typically involve impersonations. Examples of these include:

  • Fake Lawsuit Scam: Victims get information from scammers about a suit filed against them by an individual that claims to be an attorney. The pretend attorney sometimes claims to have obtained a judgment in the case and demands payment. Scammers go as far as fabricating case files and numbers to extract money or vital information from victims. Always contact the relevant authorities to confirm if any cases have been filed against you.
  • Offer of Representation Scam: People generally need the services of attorneys for diverse reasons. In this scam, the scammers impersonate attorneys and offer to represent these people. Unsuspecting individuals pay these fake attorneys for legal services, often disclosing personal and vital information. To avoid falling victim to this scam, always carry out proper checks before hiring an attorney. You can verify an attorney’s status online through the South Carolina Bar’s attorney directory.
  • Document Preparation Scam: This scam involves non-attorneys offering to prepare legal documents such as divorce papers and immigration papers for South Carolinians at a cheap rate. Properly preparing legal documents requires the skills and legal advice of a licensed attorney. The implications of wrongly prepared documents include lawsuits against victims, illegally filed papers, invalid documents, and loss of valuable assets. To prevent becoming a victim of this scam, always ensure that your legal documents are prepared or verified by a licensed attorney.
  • Attorney-targeted Scam: Scammers pose as clients requiring legal services and use this scheme to extract vital information such as bank information from lawyers. Attorneys should always confirm the legitimacy of a client and case before accepting representation to prevent being a victim of this scam.

If you suspect foul play by a licensed attorney in the state, you can file a grievance against an attorney through the South Carolina Bar. Members of the public can also send complaints through the South Carolina Legislature by calling or writing to:

  • Office of Disciplinary Counsel
  • P. O Box 12159
  • Columbia, SC 29211
  • Phone: (803) 734-2037

Victims of legal work scams carried out by non-attorneys can also file reports with the South Carolina Attorney General's Office at:

  • Office of the South Carolina Attorney General
  • Rembert Dennis Building
  • 1000 Assembly Street
  • Room 519
  • Columbia, SC 29201

How Long Does it Take to Get a License in
South Carolina?

The total amount of time it takes to get a contractor license in South Carolina is dependent on several factors. These include sitting for and passing relevant technical exams and submitting all required licensing documents. Generally, it takes between seven to ten working days to get a contractor license once the state licensing board accepts the application. License applicants can check their application status online. Note that contractors with pending licenses have a 90 day grace period to do jobs that cost $5,000 and above.

How to Maintain your License in South Carolina

To maintain contractor licenses in South Carolina, contractors must service their bonds and keep their insurance updated. Contractors are also obligated to notify the state’s licensing board within 15 days if there are any changes in contact information. This can be done through the online portal provided by the state’s licensing board. However, for name changes, the contractor has to obtain an amended charter from the office of the South Carolina Secretary of State and submit this amended charter along with an attached Revision Application to the licensing board no later than 15 business days after the name change occurred. Note that if the name change has exceeded 15 business days, the contractor must submit a new license application.

To submit bonds and financial statements, contractors may use the online portal or visit the South Carolina Department of Labor Licensing and Regulation in person between the hours of 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Mondays- Fridays, at:

  • South Carolina Department of Labor Licensing and Regulation
  • Synergy Business Park
  • Kingstree Building
  • 110 Centerview Drive
  • Columbia SC 29210
  • Phone: (803) 896-4300

Similarly, South Carolina attorneys are mandated to complete 14 hours of Continuing Legal Education (CLE) annually to maintain their law license. Attorneys are also required to update changes to their information such as addresses, contact information, and membership class on the Attorney Information System (AIS) platform of the state judicial department.

How to Renew Contractor License in
South Carolina

In South Carolina, a contractor license is valid for 2years, after which the contractor has to renew the license. General contractor licenses expire on the 31st of October every even-numbered year, while mechanical contractor licenses expire on the 31st of October, every odd-numbered year. The renewal process can be done online via the South Carolina Department of Labor Licensing and Regulation online portal. If a contractor’s license has expired for more than 90 days but less than four years, the contractor can apply for reinstatement. Note that this attracts an additional fee, which is dependent on how long the license has been expired. However, for licenses that have expired for more than four years, the contractor must retake technical exams in addition to applying for reinstatement. Note that the state licensing board has the authority to suspend, revoke, or refuse the renewal of a license.

Likewise, South Carolina attorneys renew their licenses by paying an annual licensing fee to the South Carolina Bar. This payment can be done online via the online portal provided by the state’s bar association. Licensing fees are payable on the 1st of January and failure to pay these fees before the 31st of January attracts a penalty. Note that retired members of the bar that are issued limited licenses for pro bono work are not required to pay this licensing fee.

Cities in South Carolina