Virginia Contractor License Search
What You Should Know about Hiring a Contractor in Virginia
Virginia has over 161,000 active and licensed contractors ready for hire at a moment's notice. Hiring licensed contractors for your project comes with several benefits, as these professionals are typically:
- Skilled and have extensive experience
- Bonded and insured
- Aware of safety and standard requirements applicable to your project
- Able to pull permits, request inspections, and apply for any local approvals
- Operating a lawful business, reducing your chances of falling victim to fraud or similar issues
Hence, it is in your best interest to ensure that your preferred contractor holds the relevant license for the job. As such, when considering a Virginia contractor for your project, it helps to consider the following issues:
- Who Is a Contractor in Virginia?
- How to Search for a Contractor's License in Virginia
- Penalty for Hiring a Contractor without a License in Virginia
- How Much Does a Contractor Charge in Virginia?
- Tips for Hiring a Contractor in Virginia
- Is Your Contractor Insured and Bonded as Required by Virginia Statutes?
- Top Home Improvement Scams in Virginia
- How to Report Fraudulent Virginia Contractors
Who Is a Contractor in Virginia?
A contractor is an individual or business that offers services under an agreed contract. The Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation (DPOR), through its Board of Contractors (BOC), regulates contractors in Virginia. A contractor license is mandatory to operate within the state, and the Board issues this license to eligible individuals and businesses. While the BOC issues contractor licenses across three classes and several classifications, contractors in Virginia can be categorized into:
- General Contractors: These contractors are engaged in the construction, remodeling, improvement, repair, and demolition or removal of structures. They are also responsible for coordinating such projects, ensuring their completion, and adhering to standards applicable to the project. As such, they sometimes hire specialty contractors to assist with areas outside their license scope or expertise.
- Specialty Contractors: These contractors are also called "tradesmen" in Virginia or "subcontractors" and are professionals skilled in specific construction and home improvement areas. Examples of these professionals include plumbers, HVAC contractors, electricians, and water well contractors.
Regardless of their category, the BOC classifies Virginia contractors into three classes for licensing purposes. These classes are based on the monetary value of the project the contractor is handling, and they are:
- Class A: Contractors under this class can handle a single project with a total value of $120,000 or more or a series of projects in twelve months with a total value of $750,000 or more.
- Class B: These contractors can undertake a single project with a total value of $10,000 or more but less than $750,000. They can also undertake a series of projects in twelve months with a total value of $150,000 or more but less than $750,000.
- Class C: A Class C contractor can only contract to work on a single project with a total value of $1,000 or more but less than $10,000 or a series of projects within twelve months with a total value of less than $150,000.
In addition to falling under a license class, Virginia contractors must also pick a specialization. Specializations include Commercial Building Contractors and Residential Building Contractors. Contractors must note that they cannot undertake projects outside their license specialization.
How to Search for a Contractor's License in Virginia
Virginia has more than 161,000 active contractors across different license classes and occupations. To confirm that your contractor is licensed to operate within the state, you can verify this contractor's license through the Uhire professional license search tool. The DPOR also maintains a license lookup portal containing the details of Virginia-licensed professionals.
Penalty for Hiring a Contractor without a License in Virginia
The State of Virginia does not specify penalties for hiring unlicensed contractors. However, acting as a contractor without a license or outside the scope of the relevant permit is a Class 1 misdemeanor. Penalties for this unlawful act include a maximum fine of $500 per day and the penalties for a Class 1 misdemeanor. Each day of working without a license is a separate violation.
It is in your best interest that the contractors and subcontractors working on your project are licensed. Working with unlicensed contractors comes with several risks, including:
- The risk of getting defrauded or hiring an unscrupulous individual or business
- The risk of hiring a contractor who fails to comply with standard requirements for your project
- Working with contractors who are uninsured or without a contractor bond
- Having your project become subject to a stop-work order
How Much Does a Contractor Charge in Virginia?
On average, specialty contractors in Virginia charge between $10 and $90 for their services. These fees are primarily for labor and do not include incidental costs, including the costs of pulling permits, inspection fees, and material costs.
The table below provides average hourly rates for commonly requested specialty contractors in Virginia (note that factors like your location and the contractor's local reputation may also influence actual costs):
Besides the costs associated with hiring specialty contractors, it is also necessary to consider the costs of working with a general contractor. These contractors coordinate the construction process and charge with different pricing styles. Pricing styles used mainly by general contractors include the fixed price, cost-plus, and per square feet types.
With the fixed price style, the contractor and project owner, after considering the costs associated with the project, agree on a fixed price for the contractor's fees. This price sometimes includes the project's cost. Contractors sometimes use the cost-plus style, which typically covers the cost of the project plus an additional fee. This additional fee includes the contractor's fees and may include the cost of hiring subcontractors. The per square feet style involves agreeing on a fixed price for each square foot of the project. A home improvement or construction work in Virginia costs between $100 and $120 per square foot.
Besides these pricing styles, other things that determine the final cost of your project include:
- Your location,
- The scope of the project,
- Cost of necessary materials,
- Permit and labor considerations,
- The contractor's reputation,
- Your preferences,
- The project's timeline.
Tips for Hiring a Contractor in Virginia
In most cases, the success of your project depends on your contractor and if they are skilled, experienced, and trustworthy enough to deliver a satisfactory service. Therefore, you should carefully vet your preferred contractor before hiring them. In this regard, it is advisable to consider the following tips:
- Compare estimates from multiple contractors before hiring any
- Be wary of door-to-door contractors and avoid unsolicited offers
- Verify your contractor's license before hiring them. You can do this through the Uhire professional license search tool
- Do not make substantial upfront payments or deposits for your project
- Preferably, make a payment plan that is attached to project milestones
- Confirm your contractor's reputation by asking for and checking customer references or checking platforms like Yelp, Better Business Bureau, and Google Review.
- Avoid cash payments and use recorded methods like money transfers and checks instead.
- Ensure your contractor gives you a written estimate and signs a contract before commencing work.
- Only hire contractors with liability insurance and a contractor's bond.
Is Your Contractor Insured and Bonded as Required by Virginia Statutes?
Contractors in Virginia are not mandated to maintain insurance policies as a license requirement. However, contractors, except tradesmen, must provide a financial statement, CPA review/audit, or a surety bond. This requirement confirms that the contractor has the financial means to provide the services they offer and can be held accountable for substandard jobs. Also, businesses with two or more employees are required by Virginia law to maintain workers' compensation insurance. This requirement extends to contractors.
Besides your contractor's competence, a crucial consideration should be whether this contractor is insured and bonded. Insurance protects you from personal or out-of-pocket expenses when your project causes bodily harm or damage. Similarly, a contractor's bond ensures you are compensated if your contractor absconds with your money, fails to account for it, or performs a shoddy service. Therefore, insurance and bonds give you a much-needed financial buffer.
You can verify if your contractor is insured and bonded by requesting the relevant certificates. You should also confirm the validity of the certificates with the issuing organization and ensure that the insurance and bond coverage amount is sufficient for your project, considering the project's cost.
Top Home Improvement Scams in Virginia
Annually, homeowners nationwide lose over $13 million to home improvement scams, with over 6,000 reported scams on average. As such, protecting yourself from falling victim to such scams is crucial when considering a construction or home improvement project. While these scammers use different tactics to lure unsuspecting homeowners, it helps to know about these tactics so you can spot them when working with a fraudulent contractor.
Some common tactics that fraudulent contractors use to scam Virginia homeowners include:
- Refusing to provide a written estimate or contract
- Unsolicited or door-to-door bids
- Unreasonably low offers
- Requesting substantial or complete upfront payment before starting the job or doing anything concrete
- Using out-of-state addresses or details
- Requesting cash-only payments
You can avoid these scams by taking the following actions before committing to contractors:
- Do not hire an unsolicited contractor, especially contractors that offer door-to-door services.
- Ask about your contractor and their reputation before making a hiring choice. Platforms such as Better Business Bureau, Yelp, and Google Review are a helpful start.
- Verify your contractor's license. You can do this through the Uhire professional license search tool.
- Have a written contract with your contractor.
- Ensure your contractor is insured and bonded.
- Do not make substantial payments for the project. Likewise, only make total payments after the contractor has completed the project.
- As practical as possible, avoid cash payments.
- Avoid contractors with out-of-state details. Your preferred contractor should at least have a local office.
- Keep records and documents relating to the project.
How to Report Fraudulent Virginia Contractors
In instances where your contractor defrauds you or acts unethically, you can report this contractor to the relevant regulatory agency. Several agencies in Virginia handle consumer or resident complaints, although the complaint type typically determines the appropriate agency. These agencies include:
The Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation (DPOR).
The DPOR, through its Compliance and Investigations Division, addresses complaints relating to a contractor's violation of board statutes or regulations. Note that the Department cannot order personal remedies, such as money refunds. However, it can take disciplinary action against contractors, such as suspending their licenses. You can file a complaint with this Department by submitting a completed Complaint Form to the Department's office. The Department also addresses inquiries at (804) 367-8504 or by email.
Attorney General (AG) of Virginia.
The AG of Virginia handles complaints regarding unethical or fraudulent practices and consumer law violations. However, the Office may refuse to address a complaint that should be submitted to a different agency. You can check the Office's three steps to file a complaint webpage to determine if you may file your complaint. After confirming this, you can submit your complaint to the Office by submitting a completed online complaint form. You may also contact the Office's Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-800-552-9963 for inquiries or assistance.
Small Claims Court
For cases involving the recovery of money or property from your contractor, you can commence a case against this contractor at the small claims court closest to you. A small claims court is an informal court where you do not need attorney representation. However, you will have to submit evidence to support your claims. Also, note that the money or the value of the property you intend to recover must not exceed $5,000.
Better Business Bureau
Project owners unsatisfied with the conduct of their contractor can also report this contractor to the Better Business Bureau (BBB) office closest to them. This helps other homeowners recognize the contractor's drawbacks and make better hiring choices.
The Police Department
When your contractor threatens you, commits theft, or does anything illegal to you or on your property, you should promptly report the situation to the nearest police department. Besides protecting yourself, this can help you avoid situations where you are considered to have assisted the contractor with such illegal conduct.