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HIRING A CONTRACTOR TO WORK ON YOUR HOME

Originally appeared in Haverhill Life magazine, December 2017

Massachusetts state law requires that most construction work be supervised by a licensed construction supervisor. Whether you’re building a house from the ground up or renovating or repairing an existing house, the contractor doing the work must be licensed in the discipline that he or she is working in.

Massachusetts has several categories of licensed contractors: Unrestricted construction supervisors can work on any one- or two-family residential house and any residential or commercial buildings smaller than 35,000 cubic feet. Restricted contractors can work only on one- or two-family houses. Specialty licenses for roofs; windows, doors, and siding; wood stoves; masonry; insulation; and demolition are authorized only for those specific disciplines.

Before hiring a contractor, make sure he or she has an active license in the proper category. Check to see if the contractor has insurance and workers’ compensation coverage on all his or her employees and on all sub-contractors.

Nearly all construction supervisors are required to be home-improvement—contractor certified (HIC). This certificate is required when the contractor is working on an owner-occupied home, from one- to four-family. The contractor must have the client sign a proper HIC contract before starting the job. This contract must be carefully drafted to meet the strict requirements of the HIC law, so it is wise for the homeowner to have an attorney review it to ensure that it has been properly drafted.

When properly followed, the HIC law allows the homeowner access to a $10,000 guarantee fund in the event the contractor fails to properly meet the contractual obligations. The homeowner can use this money to make necessary corrections to the property if the contractor’s work was incorrectly performed.

All contractors disturbing coated surfaces in residential property built before 1978 must also be licensed and certified as lead-safe-renovation contractors.

When working in a home built before 1978, a contractor must implement leadsafe work practices, and he or she is subject to penalties if not properly licensed.

The good news is that the homeowners renovating, repairing or painting their own single-family house are exempt from the law.

A final note: Always make sure contractors are licensed in the proper discipline, fully insured, have workers’ compensation coverage, and use the proper contracts so you don’t lose access to the HIC guarantee fund. Never take out a building permit in your own name for work being done by a contractor.

Have the contractor obtain the permit and be sure to get the final municipality permit sign-off after the work has been completed.

There is no construction-supervisor-license requirement in New Hampshire. Contractors must obtain work permits, but they are not required to have a license.