What Are Texas Contractors?
The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) oversees the licensing and regulation of a broad range of occupations, businesses, and facilities through 39 programs. Some of the professionals regulated through these programs include electricians, air conditioning and refrigeration contractors, and mold assessors and remediators. Any professional that is involved in the improvement of real property through building, construction, repair, alteration, demolishing, or other related activities is known as a contractor in Texas. Excluding, electricians, air conditioning and refrigeration contractors, and plumbers, the licensing and regulation of contractors in Texas is typically handled locally at the county, city, and municipality level. Note that while the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation licenses electricians and air conditioning and refrigeration contractors, the activities of plumbers in the state are overseen by the Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners (TSBPE). Similarly, Texas is also home to more than 92,800 licensed attorneys, whose activities are overseen by the State Bar of Texas.
Tips for Hiring a Contractor
Whether you are planning to carry out simple repairs to your home or you intend to overhaul and remodel whole areas of your property, it is always important to hire a competent and reliable contractor. Doing this ensures that you get maximum satisfaction out of your home construction, repair, or improvement project. Listed below are tips to help you hire the right contractor for your project:
- Research your project. Find out the type of contractor that you will need for the project, the types of materials that can be used, and their estimated costs
- Get bids from several contractors. Make sure that these bids detail the scope of the work, the materials that the contractors will use, and an estimated cost of the project. Take your time to compare these bids carefully, and remember that the lowest bid does not automatically equal the best bid. If a bid is exceptionally lower than the others, then the contractor may not be experienced enough to understand the scope of your project and accurately estimate the amount and cost of materials and labor required for the project
- Make sure that the contractor whose bid you select is properly licensed. Contractor licensing is mostly handled locally in Texas, so you should contact your local government authority to find out the licensing requirements for contractors in your area of residence. However, if your project involves a plumber, an electrician, or an air conditioning and refrigeration contractor, then you can verify these contractor’s state-issued licenses online via either the TSBPE’s Find a License portal for plumbers or the TDLR’s Active License Data Search portal for electricians and air conditioning and refrigeration contractors
- Make sure that the contractor is insured and bonded per the requirements of your locality
- Ask the contractor to provide you with verifiable references. It is also a good idea to conduct an online search of the contractor on third-party review websites like Google Review and Better Business Bureau
- Obtain a written contract for the project. Make sure that it contains a description of the project, a detailed list of the materials that will be used, the total cost of the project and a schedule for payments, and an estimated start and completion date for the project. The contract should also state who will be responsible for obtaining any permits that may be required for the project, as well as any promised and warranties offered by the contractor. It is a good idea to hire an attorney to help you review this contract before you sign it
- Never pay the full cost of the project before it is completed. If you have to make any down payments, then limit this to no more than 30% of the total cost of the project
- Do not pay with cash and always insist on collecting a receipt for any payments that you make
- Keep all paperwork and documents related to your project in a safe place
How to Search a Contractor’s License in Texas?
While contractor licensing and regulation is mostly handled locally in the State of Texas, certain contractors, such as electricians and plumbers are issued licenses at the state level by the TDLR and the TSBPE respectively. Both of these agencies provide online tools that you can use to verify the licenses of contractors that fall under their purview. By utilizing the TDLR’s Active License Data Search Portal and the TSBPE’s Find a License portal, you can perform searches for state-licensed Texas contractors based on name, license type, license number, city, county, and zip code. Note that you will be required to contact local licensing authorities to authenticate the licensing status of contractors that are not regulated at the state level.
Local governments in Texas generally determine the penalties for working without an appropriate local-level contractor’s license within their jurisdictions. Likewise, performing contracting work without the mandatory state-level license can result in severe penalties. For example, individuals that perform unlicensed air conditioning and refrigeration contracting anywhere in the State of Texas can be found guilty of either a Class B or C offense and can pay fines of up to $5,000.
How Much Does a Contractor Charge in
The cost of hiring a contractor in Texas is dependent on factors like the type of contractor, the specifics of the project, and your location. Generally, contractors in the state charge an average of $45 - $80 for their services. Listed below are cost estimates for some common home construction and improvement contractors in Texas:
Note that you may require the services of a competent attorney during your home construction and repair project. Retaining the services of an attorney helps ensure that all contracts and paperwork related to your project are in order and do not have any hidden terms or clauses that may affect you adversely. Texas attorneys typically charge an average of $150 - $350 per hour for their services. Just like contractor costs, attorney fees are also dependent on several factors, which include the attorney’s experience, the scope of work that the attorney is required to do, and your location.
What Are Home Improvement
Scams in Texas?
When your home requires repairs or improvements, it is common to turn to a professional to handle these jobs. However, doing this sometimes opens you up to the possibility of getting exploited by con artists and unscrupulous contractors that are only interested in taking your money without doing any work or doing a very shabby job. These types of situations are known as home improvement scams.
Unscrupulous contractors in Texas typically lure their victims with extremely low prices for their services and then request high upfront payments or steadily increase the cost of the project as the job progresses. Another way these con artists deceive their victims into hiring them is by pretending to be employees of utility companies that are inspecting homes in the area. In some cases, the con artists may also steal valuable items like cash and jewelry from their victims once they gain access to their homes.
No matter the method these unscrupulous contractors decide to use, you can reduce the risk of falling for their cons by taking certain steps when you hire a contractor for a job. The most important of these steps is to never get pressured into making on-the-spot decisions. Always take your time to do your due diligence and make sure that your contractor is properly licensed. Home improvement contractor licensing and regulation in Texas is mostly handled locally. Contact your local government authority to find out the licensing requirements for your area of residence and make sure that the contractor you intend to hire meets these requirements. Never pay cash to any contractor and withhold payments until the job has been properly completed. If you have to make an upfront payment, limit it to a maximum of 30% of the project’s total cost, and make sure that you collect a receipt of payment. You should also insist on getting a detailed written contract for the project and properly read and understand its terms and clauses before you sign it. Hiring an attorney to help you with this is a good idea.
Finally, report any suspected home improvement scams and fraudulent contractor activities to your local licensing agency as well as the Texas Attorney General’s Office. You can also file consumer complaints with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation for matters that involve electricians and air conditioning and refrigeration contractors, and the Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners for matters that involve plumbers.
What are Common Home Improvement Scams in Texas?
More than 3.1 million Texans are older than 65 years, and this demographic is the most targeted by scammers and con artists in the state. Amongst these con artists and scammers are unscrupulous contractors that try to fraudulently obtain money from homeowners that wish to undertake home construction and improvement projects. These fraudulent contractors use methods that range from pressuring the homeowner to make ill-thought-out decisions, to collecting payment for a job without doing any work. Note that although elderly Texans are often the target of these con artists, all residents of the state are at risk of falling victim to a home improvement scam. Because of this, it is necessary to learn how to protect yourself against these unscrupulous contractors by being able to spot the signs of a home improvement scam. These signs include:
- The contractor shows up at your doorsteps uninvited
- The contractor insists on receiving an upfront payment
- The contractor demands payment in cash
- The contractor refuses to provide you with verifiable references
- The contractor offers you an unbelievably low or high price
- The contractor tries to avoid giving you a written contract
- The contractor tries to avoid obtaining required permits
- The contractor pressures you into making decisions
You can avoid becoming the victim of a Texas home improvement scam by taking the following steps when you have to hire a contractor:
- Be wary of contractors that show up at your home uninvited
- Get bids from more than one contractor. Be wary of any bid that is markedly different from the others
- Make sure that your selected contractor has an established physical address
- Request references from the contractor and speak with these past clients to get their opinion on the contractor
- Contact your local government authority to find out the licensing requirements for the contractor. Make sure your contractor meets these requirements, and verify the contractor’s license with the relevant licensing agency
- Request a written contract for the project. Do not sign any contract that has blank spaces or contains terms and clauses that you do not understand. It is a good idea to get an attorney to help you review a contract before signing
- Do not pay the full cost of the project upfront. Texas places no statutory limits on the amount of money that a contractor can request as upfront payment for a project. However, it is advisable to never pay more than 30% of the total cost of your project as an upfront payment
- Do not pay contractors with cash and request a receipt for any payment that you make
- Make final payment only when the project has been completed to your satisfaction
- Never sign a certificate of completion until every aspect of the project is done, including post-work clean up per the terms of your contract
- Be wary of contractors that offer you financing options for your project. It is advisable to source for any financing that you may need for your project on your own
- Make sure that any liens placed on your home are properly waived
- Keep copies of every document related to the project, especially any documents that you sign
- Always remember that you have a three-day right of rescission for any door-to-door sales that occur at your home and cost more than $25.
The Texas Attorney General’s Office handles more than 30,000 cases annually in matters ranging from enforcing state laws to protecting Texans against home improvement scams and other types of consumer fraud. Texans that have had dealings with fraudulent contractors can file a complaint with this office online or by mailing a Complaint Form to:
- Office of the Attorney General
- Consumer Protection Division
- P.O. Box 12548
- Austin, TX 78711-2548
Complaints can also be filed with either the Texas Board of Plumbing Examiners or the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation for home improvement scams that involve plumbers or electricians and air conditioning and refrigeration contractors respectively. The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation also maintains a webpage where it publishes recent disciplinary actions taken against erring contractors. These actions include license revocations, cease and desist orders, and administrative fines for contractors that performed jobs without obtaining the required licenses.
What are Disaster Scams in Texas?
Many Texans generally support each other after a natural or man-made disaster or emergency strikes. Unfortunately, some unscrupulous contractors try to take advantage of this situation to fleece homeowners that are in dire need of construction and repair services. Therefore, it is necessary to protect your hard-earned and much-needed funds by taking certain precautions when you want to rebuild or repair your home after a disaster. These precautions are:
- Contact your insurance adjuster and get an estimate of the damage and the cost of carrying out repairs
- Do not get rushed into hiring a contractor before doing your due diligence
- Try to hire a local contractor that has a verifiable physical address
- Check out online reviews of the contractor and also ask the contractor for references
- Make sure that the contractor is duly licensed, insured, and bonded per your local government authority’s requirements
- Find out the permit requirements for your project and make sure that the contractor obtains all necessary permits
- Get a written contract and make sure that it contains the total cost of the job, a description of the work that is to be done, payment schedules, and any other expectations and promises made by the contractor. Make sure that this contract does not have any blank spaces, and if possible, get an attorney to help you review it before signing. Also, if the transaction occurs at your home, then make sure that the contract contains a notice that informs you of your three-day right of rescission
- Do not pay the full cost of the project before work begins. Do not pay cash and limit any upfront payments to 30% of the project’s cost. Per state law, contractors that do not reside within your county or an adjacent county are prohibited from requesting partial or full payment before beginning any work if a disaster has been declared in the area
- Find out if a lien, security interest, or mortgage will be placed on your property, and make sure that it is duly waived after the project is concluded
- Do not make the final payment for the project or sign any completion papers until the job has been satisfactorily completed
- Report all disaster scams to your local law enforcement agency. You can also file a complaint with the state’s Attorney General’s Office online or by completing a Complaint Form and submitting it via mail-in to:
- Office of the Attorney General
- Consumer Protection Division
- P.O. Box 12548
- Austin, TX 78711-2548
What are Common Legal
Work Scams in Texas?
Con artists utilize several tricks and dishonest schemes to swindle innocent and unsuspecting Texans. Some of these tricks and schemes involve the use of law-related techniques, such as the con artist impersonating attorneys or courtroom officials. Scams that employ the use of law-related techniques to swindle unsuspecting victims are generally referred to as legal work scams. In Texas, some of the most common legal work scams are:
- Debt collection scams: in this scam, a con artist claiming to be an attorney working on behalf of a debt collection agency contacts you and says that a case has been filed against you in court because of a debt that you owe. This person then proceeds to threaten or intimidate you into paying off the alleged debt to have the case against you withdrawn
- Debt relief scams: this is a variant of the debt collection scam and it involves a con artist, posing as an attorney or a credit counselor, contacting you and offering to help you manage or eliminate your debt for a fee
- Foreclosure rescue and mortgage modification scams: this scam is targeted at Texan homeowners that are at risk of foreclosure. It involves con artists pretending to be legal representatives of mortgage companies and mortgage relief service providers and offering to help you reduce your monthly mortgage payments or save you from foreclosure in exchange for a fee. In reality, these con artists speed up the foreclosure process because they stop you from communicating with your legitimate lender or mortgage servicer
- Jury duty scams: in this scam, a con artist impersonating a court or law enforcement official like a U.S. marshal or sheriff’s officer contacts you, claims that you failed to show up for jury duty and thus you have to pay a court-mandated fine or face arrest.
You can easily prevent becoming the newest victim of a Texas legal work scam by taking the following actions:
- Always confirm that anyone that claims to be an attorney is licensed to practice law in Texas. You can do this via the State Bar of Texas's find a lawyer portal
- Be wary of individuals that ask you to make payment via untraceable methods like wire transfers or gift cards
- Never disclose sensitive personal information to unknown callers
- Be wary of individuals that claim to be working on behalf of a debt collector but refuse to share their details with you
- Be wary of individuals that insist on collecting an upfront fee before they help you manage or relieve your debt
- Carry out proper research before choosing debt management and settlement company. You can contact the Texas Office of Consumer Credit Commissioner to get information on licensed credit counselors
- Always maintain personal contact with your lender or mortgage servicer
- Never sign any documents that you do not fully understand
- Confirm that any debt you allegedly owe is real and valid before you make any payment to a debt collector
- Remember that you have debt collection rights, that protect you from harassment by a debt collector and allow you to dispute the legitimacy of any debts that you allegedly owe
- Hang up immediately a caller threatens you and report this call to your local law enforcement agency
- Report all suspected or confirmed legal work scams to the Texas Attorney General’s Office
How Long Does it Take to Get a Contractor License in
The length of time it takes to process a contractor license in Texas depends on the licensing agency that is responsible for issuing the required license. For example, it takes the Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners approximately 30 days to process correctly submitted apprentice plumber applications. On the other hand, the state’s Department of Licensing and Regulation requires all applicants to complete all licensure requirements no later than one year after their initial applications have been submitted, otherwise, the application becomes void.
Applicants that wish to obtain a contractor’s license in Texas can contact their local consumer protection agency to find out the licensing agency that issues the required license for contractors in their locality as well as the processing time and licensing requirements for obtaining this license. Note that the processing time of a licensing agency typically depends on factors like the type of license that is required, whether or not any examinations are required before this license can be issued, and the correct submission of all relevant documents.
How to Maintain Your License in Texas
In Texas, mandatory license maintenance requirements, as well as the procedure for making updates to a license, are determined by the licensing agency that issued the contractor license in question. For example, the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation allows electricians and air conditioning and refrigeration contractors to update the contact information on their licenses online. Air conditioning and refrigeration contractors are also required to complete eight hours of continuing education annually, while electricians are required to complete four hours. Likewise, plumbers licensed by the state’s Board of Plumbing Examiners are also required to complete six hours of continuing professional education annually. Texas contractors that wish to find out the specific requirements maintaining their licenses are advised to contact the agency that issued the relevant licensing agency.
Alternatively, attorneys in Texas are required to complete 15 hours of mandatory continuing legal education during each MCLE compliance year. This MCLE compliance year is typically a 12-month period that begins on the first day of the attorney's birth month and ends on the last day of the month that comes before the attorney's birth month one year later. However, for newly licensed attorneys, the MCLE compliance year is a 24-month period that also begins on the first day of the attorney's birth month but ends two years later on the last day of the month that precedes the attorney's birth month. Texas attorneys are also required to maintain and update their profiles and contact information annually, regardless of whether there is any change to the information or not. Updates can be done online through the “MyBar Login" section located at the top right corner of every page on the State Bar of Texas's website. Queries related to attorney information updates can be directed to (512) 427-1383.
How to Renew a Contractor License in
The validity of Texas contractor licenses and the procedure for renewing these licenses generally depend on the type of license and the licensing agency responsible for issuing it. For example, the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation typically notifies license holders of their impending license expiration not later than one month before the license is set to expire. This agency also allows license holders to renew their licenses online via its TDLR online services webpage. Similarly, state-licensed plumbers are required to renew their licenses annually and this renewal can be done online via the Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiner’s online licensing system. Note that license renewals typically require the payment of renewal fees. License holders are advised to contact their respective licensing agencies to find out the specific renewals requirements that relate to their licenses, as well as any penalties that may be applicable for late renewals.
On the other hand, Texas attorneys are required to pay annual dues and fees to remain in good standing with the State Bar of Texas and continue practicing law in the state. These fees are usually based on the length of time that the attorney has practiced and are payable on the 1st day of the state bar's fiscal year. Payments can be made online, and attorneys that do not pay their fees as at when due will be required to pay additional late payment fees. These attorneys may also have their licenses suspended. Queries concerning attorney dues and fees can be directed to (800) 204-2222 ext. 1383 or email.