As consumers greet the beautiful spring weather with enthusiasm and begin to plan their home repair and improvement projects, the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation (OCABR) reminds homeowners to hire licensed and registered professionals.

OCABR staff has learned that some insurance companies are directing restoration or service companies to contact homeowners to facilitate or make repairs on storm-damaged homes. As the homeowner, you should make sure that all professionals working on or in your home are adequately insured and properly licensed and registered in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts:

  • Ask for documentation of proof of coverage and licensure before agreeing to hire the individual or company or allow them to begin repairs.
  • Check with the Better Business Bureau or other consumer-rating websites to see if the company or individual has any complaints.
  • Where applicable, you should also contact your insurance company to inquire about the process if you have a pending insurance claim for winter storm related damage. Don’t assume that your insurer is responsible for protecting you from unregistered and unlicensed contractors. 

The Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation registers Home Improvement Contractors (HIC), and the Division of Professional Licensure licenses electricians, plumbers, and sheet metal workers. Both agencies offer online systems to check a registrant’s or licensee’s status. Consumers are encouraged to check a registration or license before hiring a contractor or tradesman to do work. Some types of work such as siding, insulation, and plastering require the contractor to hold a Construction Supervisor’s License (CSL) through the Department of Public Safety. Other kinds of work, such as minor roof or gutter repairs and foundation fixes require the contractor to have Home Improvement Contractor registration. The Department of Public Safety has produced this handy checklist for jobs requiring an HIC, CSL, or both. Check with your local building official to see whether the job requires a building permit or inspection.

Contractor registrations and histories can be looked up online here. Electricians, plumbers and other professional licenses can be checked online here.

When having any work done it is always a good idea to get a proposal for any repairs or improvements in writing and to pay no more than one-third of the cost up-front. Make sure you know when the contractors will be at your home, and when the job is expected to be completed.  If you are receiving a check from your insurance company and your signature is required for the contractor to be paid, make sure your local building department has inspected and signed off on the work before you give a check to the contractor or service company.  Ask your insurer if it requires any other written approval upon the work completion before payment is allowed to the contractor.

If you would like to file a complaint against a Home Improvement Contractor, contact the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation at 617-973-8700 or fill out a complaint form.

The Division of Professional Licensure (DPL) is a regulatory agency within the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation. The agency is responsible for ensuring regulatory compliance and the integrity of the licensing process for approximately 370,000 licensees in trades and professions under the jurisdiction of 30 boards of registration. Follow DPL on Twitter @Mass Consumer.

The Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation is committed to protecting consumers through consumer advocacy and education, and also works to ensure that the businesses its agencies regulate treat all Massachusetts consumers fairly. Follow the Office at its blog, on Facebook and on Twitter @Mass_Consumer.