A home improvement project is a big deal for any homeowner. Once you saved up the proper budget and done your preliminary research on materials, colors, and timelines — the time has come to find a reliable contractor. Most importantly, you want a contractor who is licensed and insured in your state for the job requirements. So how do you check a contractor’s license?

Here are 6 different ways to check a contractor’s license in your state:

  1. Use an online directory
  2. Review their Better Business Bureau page
  3. Ask the contractor for proof
  4. Work with an industry expert
  5. Read online reviews
  6. Check the contractor’s website

 

Use your state’s online directory

Your state or contractor governing body should offer an online database where licensure can be searched via name, business, or other means. For example, in Massachusetts (where HireHaven is based) a contractor’s license can be searched on Mass.gov. You may also be able to view things such as how long the contractor has been licensed in the state, whether they have any complaints filed against them, or whether they have a bond and insurance. 

If your state does not have a website with this information, look up the number for the department on your state’s website and call the office. The information is always free and open to the public and you can typically get an answer that same day.

Another state leading in contractor/homeowner relations is California, where a California contractor’s license can be searched on CA Contractors State License Board.

Find the licensing agency in your state through the the National Association of State Contractors Licensing Agencies.

 

Review their Better Business Bureau page

Better Business Bureau is an impartial website where consumers can leave complaints or praise for many services businesses, with most contractors having a page there. As part of the contractor’s “Profile” there are areas where license #s can be entered in. Does the contractor have a license number on hand with BBB? Verify before moving forward.

Ask the contractor for proof

If you got it, flaunt it. Ask the contractor to give you his license number for verification, or send you an image of the paperwork. If the contractor is being cagey or pushes back on your request, you should consider that a red flag.

Work with an industry expert

Contacting a team like HireHaven can help take the guesswork out of finding a licensed contractor. We fully vet all of the contractors we would suggest to you, and help you get 3+ competitive quotes in 3 days. There’s a lot to be wary of in the home improvement space, and we’re here to make you feel at ease. 

Read online reviews

For further investigation into the aptitude of the contractor, read what others are saying on Google, Yelp, Facebook, BBB (see above) and other vertical sites. Are reviews mostly positive or mostly negative? Are there any reviews at all? The absence of reviews can be a troubling sign as much as pervasive negative reviews.

Some popular websites to check reviews and verify profile information:

  • Angie’s List
  • HomeAdvisor
  • Better Business Bureau
  • Google
  • Facebook

Check the contractor’s website

Lastly, a contractor should have this type of information somewhere on their website. Those who understand the marketplace will have the license numbers front and center (most likely in the footer of the website). 

Before signing any contract, check with your local contractor licensing board. It should tell you whether the contractor’s license is valid, whether a bond is in place, and whether there have been any claims filed against the contractor that you should know about.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What Is a Contractor License Board?

The contractor licensing board is a state-run organization that approves and tracks contractors, builders, and sub-contractors. It also issues licenses to contractors in the area, typically upon passing certain state requirements. This board also has the ability to revoke licenses.

What Does It Mean That a Contractor Is Bonded?

Most states require that contractors secure a bond in their name in order to obtain a license. A bond is a large sum of money, held in a non-interest bearing account in case the contractor should make a mistake that warrants a large amount of liability. Most bonds are obtained through insurance companies and the contractor makes a regular payment to maintain their bond.

Know the common industry terms

Licensed: Contractors have been granted a trade license as mandated by state and local laws. It generally requires passing competency tests about business practices and trade skills, paying a fee and proving insurance and/or bonding.

Registered: Typically less stringent than licensing, it often requires contractors to prove insurance and pay a fee. Sometimes it requires bonding, but rarely tests competency. A few places use licensing and registration interchangeably.

Bonded: Contractors have an arrangement with a third party (a private bond issuer or a recovery fund held by the licensing municipality). Homeowners may petition for reimbursement through that third party if contractors harm them financially because of shoddy work or failure to pay subcontractors as promised.

Insured: All contractors you hire should be insured. Ask to see a Certificate of Insurance, then call to verify the policy is current and carries enough coverage for your project.