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Educational Consumer Tips

Contractor Certification (Dwelling)

Author: Better Business Bureau
Category: Home Improvement

Dwelling Contractor Certification

Are you considering hiring a home improvement/remodeling contractor?
The following items are some important things for you to know.

Licensing Requirements

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.

Required Permits

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 Department of Safety and Professional Services, 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. Contractors should also hold the following types of insurance: personal liability, worker's compensation, and property damage coverage. 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. You should also to ask for copies of all current insurance policies to protect yourself from any liability which may occur during the job due to injury or damages. 

Payment Options 
To ensure you are going to make the best choice for payment options when hiring a contractor, you should be aware paying cash should be avoid. Most contractors will have an option to finance for larger projects while paying with a credit card or check is a safe option for smaller projects. You can also work to ensure your down payment will be lower because some states have laws which limit how much a contractor can request from the customer.

The law for written contract varies by state, but you can protect yourself by asking for a written contract though it may not be required by the law. The contract should be written clearly and simple, stating exactly who, what, where, when, and the cost of the specific project being completed. However, before you decide to sign the contract, some of the important aspects you should check for are as follows: the contractor's contact information,  the estimation of the start and completion dates, the obligation of the contractor to obtain all of the necessary permits, detailed list of materials,  and information about warranties and workmanship.
  Lien Waivers
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