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What Are Virginia Contractors?

The Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation (DPOR) licenses and regulates over 300,000 individuals and businesses in the State of Virginia through its various regulatory boards. These regulated professionals include architects, home inspectors, interior designers, and contractors. In Virginia, individuals and companies that perform or manage a construction project exceeding $1,000 in value are statutorily required to hold a contractor license. This license can either be a Class A, B, or C license depending on the size of contracts or projects the contractor is taking on. Electricians and plumbers are also required to seek separate licensing for their respective trades. It should also be noted that, in addition to state-issued licenses, municipal governments may have location-specific licensing requirements for residential contractors.

Apart from the DPOR, other licensing authorities also regulate the operations of several professionals in Virginia. Health Professionals, for example, are regulated by the Virginia Board of Medicine, while attorneys require a practice license from the Virginia State Bar. There are currently over 29,000 attorneys admitted into the practice of law in Virginia.

Tips for Hiring a Contractor in
Virginia

Home improvement projects can be a stressful and expensive undertaking and they typically require the involvement of a professional and competent contractor. Choosing the wrong contractor can lead to delays, substandard work, and even legal problems. As such, you should consider the following tips when choosing a contractor in Virginia:

  • Take out time to educate yourself about the type of contractor you need for the job
  • Ensure that your contractor of interest has the necessary license required to work on your project. Contractors with Class A licenses are eligible to perform or manage construction projects totaling $120,000 or greater in value for a single project or $750,000 and more within twelve months. Contractors with Class B licenses can perform or manage construction projects with a total value ranging from $7,500 to $119,999 for a single project or between $150,000 and $749,999 within twelve months. Finally, contractors with Class C licenses are only eligible to perform or manage construction projects with a value between $1,001 and $7,499 for a single project, or less than $150,000 within twelve months.
  • Verify a contractor’s license by utilizing the DPOR license lookup or calling (804) 367-8511. Also, confirm with your municipal authority whether there are additional local licensing requirements for contractors in your area of residence.
  • Always find out whether the contractor is properly insured. A contractor should carry and be able to provide you with proof of general liability and workers’ compensation insurance.
  • Get written estimates from no less than three contractors. Also, note that it is not a good idea to automatically choose the lowest bidder. Compare the bids and ask for explanations on price variations among proposals.
  • Request a list of references. A contractor who has a track record of excellent customer service and project performance will almost always be prepared to supply you with references from previous clients and suppliers. These past customers will be able to give you an idea of the contractor’s business practices and shortcomings.
  • Make sure all your agreements with the contractor are detailed in a written contract. It is also a good idea to hire an attorney to review your contract.
  • Never pay in cash or make any payment at all to a contractor without entering a written contract.
  • Avoid making large down payments. A legitimate contractor would not require you to make large advance payments. It is advisable to limit any initial payments that you make to either 10% of the cost of the project or $1,000, whichever is less.
  • Set up a payment schedule that makes payment contingent on the level and progress of the work.
  • Maintain accurate records of your transactions. Always keep copies of all receipts, bills, contracts, permits, and other relevant documents.
  • Note that you have the right to cancel any contract you enter outside the regular business place of a contractor within three business days of your signing such contract. Hence, if you begin to have doubts about a contractor, do not hesitate to exercise your cancellation right.

How to Search a Contractor’s License in Virginia?

Per Section 54.1-1100 of the Code of Virginia, contractors are statutorily required to obtain an appropriate class of license from the state’s Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation before working on projects that cost $1,000 or more.

To verify that the contractor you hire has a valid license, go through the DPOR’s License Lookup portal, which allows interested parties to perform searches by inputting search terms like the contractor’s name, address, license number, and license type. Search results obtained from this portal include additional information like the contractor’s specialties, initial license issuance date, and license expiry date.

According to Section 54.1-1115 of the Code of Virginia, contracting for any construction or home improvement-related work without possessing either a valid license or the right class of license shall be considered a Class 1 misdemeanor. Individuals found guilty of violating this act can be fined up to $500 for each day of the violation, as well as the statutorily authorized punishment of up to 12 months confinement in jail, a fine of up to $2,500, or both.

You can contact the DPOR’s Board for Contractors at (804) 367-8511 to direct queries related to the results of your contractor license search or to make any other contractor license-related queries.

How Much Does a Contractor Charge in
Virginia?

Contractor fees in Virginia cost an average of $10 to $40 per hour depending on the particular type of work and the amount of labor needed. This estimate, however, excludes the cost of supplies, which if added would increase the cost of the project. Below are the hourly labor costs of different types of contractors in Virginia:

Drywall installation/repair contractors
$10 - $28
Electricians
$9 - $45
Flooring contractors
$9 - $33
HVAC contractors
$12 - $27
Painters
$9 - $25
Masonry contractors
$11 - $29
Siding installation/repair contractors
$9 - $27
Roofing contractors
$9 - $30
Plumbing contractors
$13 - $44
Landscaping contractors
$7 - $17
Carpenters
$14 - $35
Interior and exterior finishing contractors
$10 - $46
Concrete contractors
$9 - $24
Security installation contractors
$13 - $28

Note that it is mandatory for home improvement contractors to provide you with a written contract. Hence, you might require the help of an attorney to review contracts for your home improvement projects. Hiring an attorney in Virginia can cost you between $150 and $320 hourly depending on the reputation of the attorney and your location within the state.

What Are Home Improvement
Scams in Virginia?

Home improvement scams in Virginia encompass a wide range of exploitative practices perpetuated by dishonest contractors, and these include overpricing supplies, using low-quality materials, substandard work, unlicensed contracting, and absconding with homeowners’ funds without providing promised services. Many such scammers usually offer repair and home improvement services door to door and pressure their potential victims into making immediate decisions. Some other indications of a home improvement scam include instances when the contractor happens to have materials left over from a previous job, asks you to pay for the entire job up-front, only accepts cash payments, or asks you to obtain the required building permits.

While it is not uncommon for scammers to lurk around Virginia homeowners, especially older residents and those in need of urgent repairs following a disaster, you can protect yourself from being prey to home improvement scams. The best way to do this is by always hiring licensed contractors. This is because, apart from being able to track them down if anything goes wrong, it also makes you eligible for monetary compensation through the Contractors Transaction Recovery Fund if the contractor fails to deliver as promised. As such, request the contractor’s license number and verify it with the DPOR before entering a contract. Likewise, you should also seek the help of an attorney in reviewing your contracts to eliminate any ambiguity in your agreements with the contractor.

Report unethical contractor activities to the DPOR by completing a complaint form and submitting it via email, via fax to (866) 282-3932, or via mail-in to:

  • Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation
  • Compliance and Investigations Division
  • Complaint Analysis & Resolution
  • 9960 Mayland Drive
  • Suite 400
  • Richmond, VA 23233-1485

Similar complaints can be made to the Office of the Attorney General of Virginia online, or by sending a completed consumer complaint form (also available in Spanish) by either fax to (804) 225-4378 or mail-in to:

  • Office of the Attorney General
  • 202 North Ninth Street
  • Richmond, VA 23219
Professional License Search

What are Common Home Improvement Scams in Virginia?

Scammers prey on Virginia homeowners in several ways that result in a loss of money and even their homes in some cases. These fraudsters often target elderly citizens more often than other Virginians because they are considered vulnerable and more likely to have cash or good credit. In May 2020, a contractor based in Virginia Beach was convicted for offering home improvement services to elderly homeowners, urging them to take loans for the works, and then absconding with the money after doing little or no work. A similar conviction some years earlier involved a contractor from Culpeper that had tricked an elderly resident of the state into paying more than $170,000 for home improvement services that were not performed. Fraudulent contractors in Virginia usually adopt the following strategies:

  • Door to Door Solicitations: this scam involves offers to do home improvements, such as roofing, painting, or siding at a discounted price and then making away with the payment after doing little or no work.
  • High-Pressure Sales: the contractor offers what is touted as the best deal, available only if the homeowner decides immediately. The fraudster does this to keep the homeowner from getting competitive bids and reviewing past performance.
  • Scare Tactics: here, the contractor offers a free inspection, only to find major faults in the house supposedly requiring immediate repairs. The aim is to get the homeowner to do unnecessary and overpriced repairs.
  • Large Down Payments: a contractor requests the majority, if not all, of the total cost upfront, claiming that the money is needed to pay for supplies or laborers. The scammer then absconds with the money without doing the required work. Although Virginia does not have a down payment law, it is advisable to limit any advance payments to either 10% of the cost of the project or $1,000, whichever is less.
  • Demand for Cash: in this scam, the contractor demands cash payment and may even offer to accompany the victim to the bank. Once this cash is received, the contractor then absconds with money without doing the promised work.
  • Verbal Agreements: here, the contractor dismisses the need for a written contract. Note that in Virginia, a written contract is statutorily required for all residential work.

Report actual or suspected instances of home improvement scams to the Attorney General of Virginia either online, or by completing a consumer complaint form (available in Spanish) and sending it via fax to (804) 225-4378, or by mail to

  • Office of the Attorney General
  • 202 North Ninth Street
  • Richmond, VA 23219

You can also report fraudulent contractor activities by filing a complaint with the DPOR.

What are Disaster Scams in Virginia?

The aftermath of disasters like fires and floods often lead to increasing consumer complaints relating to contractor fraud such as shoddy repairs, unlicensed contracting, and price gouging. Considering the following tips can help you avoid falling for a post-disaster contractor scam in Virginia:

  • Request the contractor’s license information and verify it with the Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation (DPOR) online or by calling (804) 367-8511. Also, contact your municipal authority to confirm any additional licensing requirements.
  • Check for any disciplinary action taken by DPOR against the contractor online via the agency’s disciplinary action search portal. You can also look-up reviews on the contractor online through websites like Google Review and Better Business Bureau.
  • Make sure the contractor has a valid personal liability insurance policy and authenticate it with the contractor’s insurance agent.
  • Obtain bids from no less than three contractors. Also, ask these contractors for references and contact each of these references.
  • Request a detailed written contract that includes the project’s start and completion date. Never rely on verbal agreements, as these are considered illegal for residential projects in Virginia.
  • Do not sign any document that is unclear to you. Instead, hire an attorney to review your contracts before signing them.
  • Do not pay your contractor cash.
  • Do not make large advance payments. It is a good idea to never pay more than 10% of the total fee, with subsequent payments following the progression of the work.
  • Do not succumb to contractor tactics to get you to make on-the-spot decisions. Selecting a contractor after a disaster requires proper consideration and so you should avoid rushing the process.
  • Note that the Virginia Post-Disaster Anti-Price Gouging Act prohibits overpricing of repair supplies and services during emergencies like post-disaster periods. As such if you feel certain contractor services are overpriced, you should report to the Office of the state’s Attorney General by completing the Price Gouging Complaint Form and sending it by fax to (804) 225-4378, or by mail to
  • Office of the Attorney General of Virginia
  • Consumer Protection Section
  • 202 North Ninth Street
  • Richmond, VA 23219

Report other post-disaster scams by filing complaints with the Office of the Attorney General or the DPOR.

What are Common Legal
Work Scams in Virginia?

Legal work scams cover a wide range of fraudulent activities perpetrated using attorney-related means. Although these scams are usually directed at citizens, sometimes, scammers also target attorneys. Some legal work scams in Virginia include:

  • Jury Duty Scams: here, a scammer claiming to be a law enforcement officer or a government-employed attorney contacts unsuspecting citizens for allegedly missing jury duty and demands the payment of a fine or verification of personal information to avoid arrest.
  • Legal Representation Scam: this involves scammers sending emails to attorneys or law firms and claiming to need legal representation to collect delinquent payments from a particular party. After requesting and signing the attorney’s or law firm’s retainer agreement, the scammer returns invoices reflecting the alleged amount owed, and shortly after, a check payable to the law firm. The scammer then instructs the firm to deduct its legal fee, including any other expenses associated with the transaction, and wire the remaining funds. By the time the check is determined to be counterfeit, the scammer would have made way with the funds.

The following are tips that can protect yourself from falling for a legal work scam in Virginia

  • Always remember courts will never demand the payment of money to prevent an arrest for missing jury duty.
  • Never give an unknown caller any of your financial or personal information.
  • Look carefully at the email address and domain of the entities that contact you and compare it with that of the agency they claim to be.
  • Always verify the license of any attorney that you intend to hire through the Virginia State Bar’s Member Directory Search portal.
  • Be wary of demands for wire transfers or cash payments. Never wire money to someone you do not know.
  • Report fraudulent attorney activities to the Virginia State Bar online, or by completing a complaint form and sending it by email or mail to:
  • Intake Office
  • 1111 East Main
  • Suite 700
  • Richmond, VA 23219-0026

Aggrieved parties can also make complaints by writing a simple letter explaining the situation leading to the attorney’s unethical behavior. The letter should contain the complainer’s full name, mailing address, email address, telephone numbers, and signature as well as the full name and address of the attorney in question. This letter should be sent by mail to the address mentioned above.

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

Contractor license applications in Virginia typically take an average of 30 days to process, however, the specific timeframe is dependent on certain factors. If your application is complete and you meet all of the eligibility criteria, your license will be issued and mailed to you after the initial evaluation. However, if your application is incomplete, you will receive a letter describing what was missing and what is required to complete the evaluation and issue your license.

Note that applicants for Class A contractor license can apply for expedited processing. This service costs $250 in addition to the normal application fee and allows applicants to have their license application completed within two working days. For more information regarding the expedited processing, contact the DPOR by email or by calling (804) 367-8511.

How to Maintain Your License in Virginia

Contractor licenses in Virginia are good for two years, and contractors must maintain their bonds and workers' compensation insurance during that time to avoid having these licenses canceled. Contractors are required to duly inform the DPOR of changes in their license information such as name and address changes. To do so, applicants are to respectively fill out the name change and address change forms and submit these forms via fax to (866) 266-6818 or by mail to:

  • Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation
  • 9960 Mayland Drive
  • Suite 400
  • Richmond, VA 23233-1485

Note that address change can also be reported online. Virginia contractors can also change their license classes by completing and submitting a change in license class application to the fax number or mail address mentioned above.

Finally, active attorneys in Virginia are required to complete a mandatory 12 credit hours of continuing legal education annually to maintain their license. Attorneys can also update their address of record either online or by completing the address update form and mailing it to:

  • Virginia State Bar
  • Membership Department
  • Suite 700
  • 1111 East Main Street
  • Richmond VA 23219-0026

How to Renew a Contractor License in
Virginia

Contractor licenses in Virginia are valid for two years after which a renewal will be required. Typically, the DPOR mails renewal cards to licensees before expiration and the recipients are to return the card together with their renewal fees. Nonetheless, licensees that do not receive these renewal cards via mail can still send in their renewal fees no earlier than 60 days before the expiration of their licenses. Payments are to be made using checks payable to the Treasurer of Virginia and mailed to:

  • Board for Contractors
  • Department of Professional & Occupational Regulation
  • 9960 Mayland Drive
  • Suite 400
  • Richmond, VA 23233

Note that applicants are to also include their license numbers on the check payment. Payments can also be made via credit cards. Contractors that wish to utilize this payment method will be required to complete a credit card payment form and submit it by fax to (877) 340-9616 or via mail to:

  • Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation
  • P.O. Box 29570
  • Richmond, VA 23242-0570

Contractors can also process their license renewal online by logging into the DPOR portal and following the renewal instructions provided there. Any contractor whose license has expired for more than 30 days is required to contact the DPOR by email or by calling (804) 367-8511.

Similarly, Virginia attorneys renew their licenses by paying annual bar dues and fees. These dues and fees can be paid by logging into the Virginia State Bar Portal or by completing a dues statement and mailing it together with a check for the required fees to:

  • Virginia State Bar
  • 1111 East Main Street
  • Richmond VA 23219-0026