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Home Remodeling Requires a Licensed Contractor

But what is a licensed contractor? Brandon Bramlett breaks down the definition in this week's look at real estate and home ownership issues.

We find ourselves once again bursting into the full-blown beauty of spring. Everything seems to be coming to life early after a relatively mild winter. As the plants and animals all spring back into action, so does the real estate market. And so do most homeowners as well—historically, the spring season is the busiest time of the year for home improvement and maintenance projects. And with recent storm damage in our area, some homeowners have been faced with unexpected repair projects.

In the hectic business of finding the time and money necessary to budget a home project—whether it is a new addition or just a minor repair—it is important to carefully consider who will be doing the work. And, if you are like most people and cannot find the time or have the skills or tools necessary to do it yourself, you will need a contractor. The old rule of thumb for advice on contractors has always been “only use those that are licensed and insured.” But what does licensed mean? What are the different types of licenses? And why is that differentiation important? 

You may be wondering why there is a specific type of contractor license at all. In times past, anyone who had a business license from their local municipality and an insurance bond could conduct work as a “general contractor” (they usually needed a pickup truck and tool box, too). But do not confuse a “business” license with the type of “contractor” license we are examining here. Practically any type of business must have a business license to be in legal operational compliance with the city, county and/or state. The contractor license, however, covers an area of knowledge and training specific to the field of general contracting. 

Seeing the need to regulate the very diverse field of contracting, the Georgia General Assembly created the State Licensing Board for Residential and General Contractors in 2004 to regulate individuals engaged in construction contracting. On July 1, 2008, a majority of contractors performing residential or general contracting work were required to have a professional license issued by the Georgia Secretary of State's office to legally pull permits to begin new work in Georgia. All applicants for licensure were (and are presently) required to pass a two-part examination covering the license they are attempting to obtain, and business and law. So contractors of different types are required to get state approved training now and pass a rigorous test in order to become licensed. But what are these different types?

There are three basic categories of licensure. The first, and least stringent license type, is “Residential-Basic Contractor.” This category would cover most “handyman” types of businesses. The next step up from that is the “Residential-Light Commercial Contractor” license. Most homebuilders and major renovation and repair companies will have this type of license. The last, and by far most comprehensive license type, is “General Contractor.” This level of license is required for major construction projects, such as shopping malls and office buildings.

As you can see, the license types break down into fairly easy to understand scope of work categories. All licensees are given a license number by the state, are registered with the Georgia Secretary of State and visible on the SOS website. Also, each licensee is given a pocket card with all pertinent information and they should be able to produce if asked for. All of this is an attempt to make it easy for you, the consumer, to check a perspective contractor’s status.

It is important that any contractor doing work in or on your home still have a valid business license and adequate insurance. Due diligence is always important, especially with your largest investment—your home. Be sure to take the time to check a company’s credentials fully before hiring them. Ask for referrals, get multiple quotes—but also remember to check their license status as well!

Source: http://sos.georgia.gov/plb/contractors/default.htm

iDeal Real Estate Professionals LLC is owned and operated by Brandon Bramlett and C. Mark Willix and is affiliated with Maximum One Realty Greater Atlanta. For personalized service, visit us at www.idealrealestateprofessionals.com. You can also email us at info@idealrealestateprofessionals.com.

Julie Blan March 22, 2012 at 02:52 PM
Thanks for this column. One quick thought: Residential Basic covers most residential single-family home contractors. "Handymen" don't require licensure. Residential Commercial add multi-family homes over 3 stories and light commercial projects.
NCPHIF April 03, 2012 at 07:40 PM
As a nonprofit, it is our mission to educate homeowners on how to avoid becoming victims of contractor scams. Before you begin a home repair or home improvement project, please visit preventcontractorfraud.org for FREE and valuable information on how to deal with contractors. Don't become a victim!!
john cartner April 05, 2014 at 08:58 AM
Every person wants to be alive in a well decorated house with fresh decors. Home remodeling is very important part of a proper living schedule. If one wants to adjust his house then he must go for home remodeling. Home remodeling employs a representation approach and needs to be handled carefully. In many states such as New York there are several expert contractors who will help you out in remodeling your house.

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