Educational Consumer Tips
Contractor Certification ( Building/Dwelling)
Dwelling Contractor Certification
Are you considering hiring a home improvement/remodeling contractor?
The following items are some important things for you to know.
As of July 2009, building contractors in Wisconsin are required to have a building contractor registration with Wisconsin's Department of Commerce EXCEPT if they hold one of these nine credentials:
1. A dwelling contractor certification.
2. A dwelling contractor - restricted certification.
3. A manufactured home manufacturer license.
4. A manufactured home dealer license.
5. A manufactured home installer license.
6. An electrical contractor certification.
7. An electrical contractor - restricted certification.
8. An HVAC contractor registration.
9. An elevator contractor license.
Before you hire a contractor, ask if it has one of the above nine credentials OR a building contractor registration.
Please note: If a general contractor is exempt from the building contractor registration rule because it holds one of the above credentials, it is required to work with subcontractors that are in compliance with the building contractor registration requirements. To search for a company's credentials with the Department of Commerce, go to http://apps2.commerce.wi.gov/SB_Credential.
A contractor must inform you, before you enter into a contract, of all the required building or construction permits. Contractors can pull these permits for you, but it is not required. If the contractor asks you to pull your own building permits, you have no assurance that the contractor is properly licensed or insured, which may make you ultimately liable for any property damage, injuries or code violations. If the contractor pulls the required permits, he/she must have two certifications that are required by the state of Wisconsin:
1) Dwelling contractor certification (assigned to the business); and
2) Dwelling contractor qualifier (assigned to an employee).
In addition, contractors also must be registered with the Division of Safety and Buildings, and show proof that they have paid for worker's compensation, unemployment insurance, and minimum levels of liability or a bond. The liability insurance covers worker and public injuries and damage to property. Please note that if a homeowner pulls the required permits, he/she will be required to sign a waiver that states the homeowner may be held liable for bodily injury, death or property damage, and the homeowner may not be able to collect damages from the contractor if the contractor violates any codes or ordinances.
Certificate of Insurance
To protect yourself, ask the contractor for a certificate of insurance with your name and address listed as a certificate holder. This certificate shows that the contractor has an active policy. As a certificate holder, you will then be informed if the contractor's insurance policy expires. Wisconsin Consumer Protection laws require that contractors be bonded or insured to protect homeowners against property damage or dwelling code violations caused by the contractor.
When any payment is made - especially final payment, get lien waivers from the contractor. This will prevent a subcontractor or material supplier from putting a lien on your home if the contractor doesn't pay the bills. Wisconsin law requires that consumers receive a lien waiver from a contractor whenever they make partial or final payments. Consumers, however, should know in advance to ask for a lien waiver if one is not offered. The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) is working jointly with the Wisconsin Department of Commerce to help educate both consumers and contractors about licensing requirements. For more information and consumer tips from DATCP, go to http://datcp.wi.gov/Consumer/Top_Ten_Complaints/Home_Improvement_Tips/index.aspx