Washington D.C. Contractor License Search
What You Should Know about Hiring a Contractor in Washington, D.C.
More than 1,700 licensed contractors in the District of Columbia are ready for hire at a moment's notice. Goingwith a licensed contractor is essential when you need a professional. A licensed contractor is adequately trained to complete your project following relevant city codes and industry standards. Usually , a licensed contractor in Washington will be insured and bonded to protect his business and clients from any liabilities from uncompleted work, damages, and work-related injuries. In addition, hiring a licensed contractor will save you from falling victim to fraudulent contractors.
However, before hiring a contractor in Washington D.C., we suggest you consider the following issues first:
- Who Is a Contractor in Washington, D.C.?
- How to Search for a Contractor's License in Washington D.C.
- Penalty for Hiring a Contractor Without a License in Washington, D.C.
- How Much Does a Contractor Charge in Washington, D.C.?
- Tips for Hiring a Contractor in Washington, D.C.
- Is Your Contractor Insured and Bonded as Required by Washington, D.C. Statutes?
- Top Contractor Scams in Washington, D.C.
- How to Report Fraudulent Washington, D.C. Contractors
Who Is a Contractor in Washington, D.C.?
Contractors are individuals or businesses that offer services based on a written or oral agreement. These contractors must obtain the appropriate licenses from the District of Columbia Department of Licensing and Consumer Protection (DLCP) before contracting in the district. Contractor licenses in Washington, D.C., can be grouped into two main categories:
- General Contractors/Construction Managers: General contractors or construction managers oversee parts or all the tasks involved in a construction or property improvement project. These contractors supervise the activities of everyone involved in the projects and are usually employed by the property owner. As such, they are held accountable if any part of the project does not meet the property owner's expectations. General contractors in Washington, D.C., must have a business license from the DLCP. The DLCP offers five licensing options for general contracting:
- Class A: these general contractors oversee any construction project regardless of scope. They are not limited by the value of a contract they wish to execute.
- Class B: these contractors oversee and manage construction projects valued at $10,000,000 or less.
- Class C: the holder of a Class C general contractor license is eligible to execute projects with a total value of $5,000,000 or less.
- Class D: the holder of a Class D general contractor license can only execute projects with a total value of $2,000,000 or less.
- Class E: these contractors oversee and manage construction projects valued at $500,000 or less.
- Home Improvement Contractors: home improvement contractors specialize in executing projects that improve the value of a property. These contractors perform and oversee specific activities like carpentry, painting, plumbing, electrical work, roofing, etc., involved in a home improvement project. Washington, D.C., home improvement contractors must obtain a business license from the DLCP before operating in any part of the district.
Irrespective of whether an individual is licensed as a general or home improvement contractor, they must obtain a specialty trade license if they engage in electrical, plumbing, gas fitting, or HVAC work. The DLCP issues specialty trade licenses via its Occupational and Professional Licensing system (OPL). For more information concerning contractor licenses in Washington, D.C., contact the DLCP at (202) 671-4500.
How to Search for a Contractor's License in Washington D.C.
The DLCP regulates and licenses construction activities in the District of Columbia. To ensure your contractor has a valid license issued by the DLCP, you can use the Uhire professional license search or check an existing business license portal and the occupational and professional licensee search portal. To access these portals, you must create a profile and sign in.
Penalty for Hiring a Contractor Without a License in Washington, D.C.
Although no specific penalties are outlined for hiring an unlicensed contractor in Washington, D.C., doing so comes with certain risks. These include the possibility of receiving substandard services despite paying the total project cost, being held responsible for any accidents or damages during the project, and incurring fines for violating building codes.
In Washington, D.C., contracting without a license is a Class 1 infraction with a minimum fine of $2,000 for first-time offenders. (repeat offenders face even steeper penalties).
How Much Does a Contractor Charge in Washington, D.C.?
Specialty contractors in Washington, D.C., typically charge between $21 and $130 per hour for their services. The cost of their services is usually determined by the complexity and labor intensity of the tasks they are hired to perform.
The table below provides average hourly rates for commonly requested specialty contractors in Washington, D.C. (note that factors like your location and the contractor's local reputation may influence actual costs):
When undertaking a construction project, you often require the services of multiple specialty contractors. Managing different contractors can be a daunting task for homeowners. We suggest hiring a general contractor to oversee the project to reduce stress and increase efficiency. General contractors in Washington, D.C., usually charge 10 to 20 percent of the project's total value. They determine their fees using the following methods:
- Fixed Price Method: here, the contractor charges a pre-determined project fee. This method works best for projects with a well-defined scope and timeline.
- Cost Plus Fee Method: here, the contractor charges for the actual work done on the project and adds a markup for all services provided. This approach is ideal for large projects with uncertain timelines. However, requesting a guaranteed maximum price is recommended to prevent costs from exceeding expectations.
Construction and home remodeling projects in Washington D.C. can cost you anywhere from $130 - $450 per square foot, with overall costs determined by factors like:
- The nature and scope of the project.
- The cost of required materials.
- Your location.
- Accessibility to the project site and site conditions.
- Contractor charges.
- The reputation and experience of involved contractors.
- The urgency of required services.
- Permit costs, labor fees, and other miscellaneous expenses.
Tips for Hiring a Contractor in Washington, D.C.
Constructing a new home, making improvements such as roofing, or remodeling a bathroom or kitchen can become frustrating and costly when you hire a dishonest contractor. So, before choosing a contractor in Washington D.C. you should always consider the following tips:
- Get referrals from family and friends.
- Ask prospective contractors to submit bids for the project. Compare bids from at least three contractors before choosing one.
- Always hire state-licensed contractors. You can confirm your contractor's license status online or by calling (202) 671-4500.
- Ask your prospective contractor for references and check them.
- Make sure the contractor is insured and bonded. You can confirm a contractor's insurance status by requesting copies of their insurance certificate and verifying it with the insurance company.
- Insist on getting a written contract that includes all project expectations and agreements before any work starts. Make sure you review and understand the contract before signing.
- Do not pay the total cost for the project upfront. Instead, you should pay 10% of the total project cost as a down payment.
- Ensure the project has been satisfactorily completed before making the final payment.
- Do not make cash payments.
- Keep copies of all documentation (like receipts, invoices, warranties, and contracts) related to the project.
Is Your Contractor Insured and Bonded as Required by Washington, D.C. Statutes?
Per the Department of Licensing and Consumer Protection (DLCP) requirements, Washington D.C. contractors must carry the appropriate general liability insurance and workers' compensation insurance for their employees. Home improvement contractors must also maintain a surety bond of $25,000.
Always verify your prospective contractor's insurance and bond status. This will provide financial and legal protection in the event of unforeseen incidents such as bodily injuries, accidental property damage, or contractor errors that may arise during your project. Note that insurance and bonding provide different types of protection. Insurance protects the project owner and contractor from having to pay for accidents or injuries from their own pockets. Meanwhile, bonds protect project owners by ensuring they are not held responsible for any damages caused by the contractor's failure to complete the job as promised.
So, before hiring a contractor in Washington, D.C., we recommend verifying the individual's insurance and bond certificate. You can do this by requesting proof of insurance and bonding from your prospective contractors before committing to them. You should also ensure that the contractor's general liability coverage is adequate for the scope of your project. You can do this by asking for a copy of their insurance (and bond) certificate and verifying it by calling the DLCP at (202) 671-4500.
Top Contractor Scams in Washington, D.C.
In 2022, the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia received 133 complaints against contractors in the district, which is about 5 percent of the total consumer complaints for the year. Although contractor scams are rare in the district, homeowners are encouraged to research before choosing a contractor.
Some common tactics that fraudulent contractors use to scam Californian homeowners include:
- Going door-to-door soliciting for work at a discounted rate.
- Offering free home inspections and then using the opportunity to claim that urgent work needs to be done.
- Using high-pressure sales techniques or scare tactics to persuade homeowners to sign up for services without thoroughly researching and determining fair pricing.
- Grossly inflating the cost of required materials for the project.
- Demanding complete or substantial payments in advance and firmly insisting on cash transactions.
- Downplaying the importance of written contracts.
- Offering contracts with malicious clauses or blank spaces that can be filled in later.
You can avoid these scams by taking the following actions before committing to contractors:
- Avoid unsolicited contractors and home improvement services
- Always hire state-licensed contractors. You can confirm your contractor's license status online or by calling (202) 671-4500.
- Get and compare quotes for your project from several contractors.
- Always do your due diligence on prospective contractors. Request references, and look them up online.
- Insist on written contracts and review these contracts carefully before signing.
- Never sign any documents you do not clearly understand.
- Request lien waivers from your general contractor and all involved subcontractors.
- Avoid cash payments.
How to Report Fraudulent Washington, D.C. Contractors
In Washington, D.C., various agencies can assist you in handling contractor scams and seeking justice against deceitful contractors.
Department of Licensing and Consumer Protection (DLCP)
The DLCP helps with contract issues involving contractors who work without a license and those who do not provide the services they have been paid for. You can file a complaint with the DLCP online if your contractor is not licensed.
Similarly, if you do not receive the service you paid for or the contractor did not do a satisfactory job, you may report the matter to the DLCP online via the Consumer Protection Complaint Request page.
Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia
Complaints involving deceptive business practices resulting in a financial loss or theft can be reported to the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia by calling (202) 442-9828 or via email. These complaints can also be filled via an online complaint form or by texting "complaint" to (202) 738-5212 and following the guided prompts.
Small Claims Court
Washington, D.C., small claims courts resolve monetary disputes of $10,000 or less. Suppose your contractor has failed to meet the construction contract terms. In that case, you may consider filling a small claims case against them by submitting a statement of claim form and information sheet to the claims clerk's office located at:Court Building B
510 4th Street
North West, Room 199
Washington, DC 20001
Better Business Bureau (BBB)
You may file a complaint against a fraudulent contractor with the local chapter of the Better Business Bureau. If the complaint involves a monetary dispute, you also can report the matter to the BBB regardless of the amount of money that is being disputed. The BBB does not require that the complaint reach a certain monetary threshold.
The Police Department
If the contractor physically threatens or steals from you, do not hesitate to report the matter to your local police department.