Q: Must all contractors in Rhode Island be registered?

A: Every residential contractor in Rhode Island is required to register with the Rhode Island Contractor Registration Board (RICRB). Unregistered contractors and contractors with violations and suspended registrations do exist, however. If you think that this is the exception, go to www.crb.state.ri.us/watchlist.php to see a list of over 1000 contractors in this area who have violations, suspensions or revoked registrations! In all, one in seven contractors in RI has had a registration revoked or is not carrying insurance. You can check the status of any residential contractor at www.crb.state.ri.us/search.php .

Q: Does contractor registration guarantee the competency of the contractor?

A: The RICRB board does not certify the experience of a contractor nor does it certify the quality of a contractors work. To be registered, a contractor needs only proof of insurance (which can be obtained with only a deposit on his insurance policy) and the $100 registration fee. The RICRB board does, however, make available to the homeowner an avenue of dispute resolution so that if things go bad between you and your contractor, you may be able resolve your problems with RICRB’s help. You should select a reliable contractor you feel comfortable with, so that you never have to make this call.

Q: Is there a RICRB or equivalent in Massachusetts?

A: The Massachusetts Home Improvement Contractor (HIC) license is the Massachusetts equivalent of RICRB. Your contractor must, at a minimum, possess this license. Depending on the type of work to be done, your contractor may also be required to have a Construction Supervisors License (CSL). You can check for a contractor’s HIC or CSL status at www.magnet.state.ma.us/BBRS.

Q: What is a Massachusetts CSL?

A: To earn a Construction Supervisor License (CSL) in Massachusetts, a contractor needs to provide not only business and insurance information, but the contractor must also display competency and a thorough understanding of the Massachusetts State Building Code. Contractors achieve this license by being thoroughly tested and by proving competency and knowledge of the building code.

Q: What if I hire an unlicensed contractor?

A: If you hire an unlicensed contractor, and something goes wrong with the contractor, then you are on your own to resolve the problem. If you hire a licensed contractor, the state will provide some assistance. If you win your case in court or by arbitration and the contractor fails to pay the award or judgment, you can receive up to $10,000 from the state’s Guarantee Fund.

Q: What is a Lead-Safe Remodeler?

A: A licensed Lead-Safe Remodeler is one who has completed special training on the safe handling of lead-based products during remodeling activities. Rhode Island, which has the fifth-oldest housing stock in the nation, has one of the most serious lead problems. The rate of lead poisoned children in Rhode Island is over three times the United States average. As a general rule, the older a residence is, the greater the chance that it will have lead-based paint. If the residence you own was built prior to 1978, you should assume that it poses a potential lead hazard and partner with a Lead-Safe Remodeler for your renovations.

Q: Can remodelers and others working on my house sue me if they are injured while working on my house?

A: Yes. Anyone injured while working on your house can sue you. When homeowners allow workers into their homes, the homeowners put themselves at tremendous risk if a worker gets hurt in the home and the worker is not covered by Workers Compensation. An injured worker is much less likely to attempt to bring a suit against you if their medical expenses and recuperation time are covered by an active Worker’s Compensation policy. We recommend that for the duration any construction or remodeling project, the homeowner purchase an umbrella policy in addition to their normal homeowner’s insurance. Your insurance agent can help you with the details.

Q: If a remodeler says he is insured, how do I know that he really is?

A: The remodeler who says he’s insured may not be. There are many remodeling companies that have little or no insurance. They may have had insurance when they registered with the state, but have allowed their insurance to lapse and may now be uninsured. If the contractor has no employees, (e.g. a contractor who is the sole owner of the company, technically speaking, does not have to be an employee of that company), the contractor is not required by the RI Department of Labor & Training (DLT) to carry Worker’s Compensation coverage for themselves. Your best protection is to request to see a current Certificate of Insurance and then call the insurance company to verify the contractor’s insurance. Modern Yankee Builders is carries both General Liability and Worker’s Compensation Insurance.

Q: If my remodeler is insured, do I need to worry about whether or not his subcontractors are insured?

A: Yes! Many remodelers hire Trade Contractors (sometimes called “subcontractors” or “subs”) who have no insurance. It’s cheaper that way, but the homeowner shares the risk, while the contractor makes the profit. Even if the contractor does hire Trade Contractors with suitable insurance, how do you know that those Trade Contractors are insuring all of their employees who work on your house? Many homeowners unwittingly incur unnecessary liability risks by hiring contractors who are insufficiently insured, leaving both the contractor and the homeowner vulnerable to potential suits and claims. Modern Yankee Builders requires that every Trade Contractor working with us must provide a written certificate of General Liability Insurance as well as a certificate of Worker’s Compensation Insurance coverage (or a DWC –11-IC which waives the requirement for independent contractors). They must also sign our Trade Contractor Agreement stating that as a Trade Contractor working for Modern Yankee Builders, they are obligated to fully insure their company and their employees. We check this prior to EVERY project. This means that every person who participates in your project has his/her own insurance coverage and that you are not assuming any unnecessary risks. This is how Modern Yankee Builders protects you, the homeowner.