Massachusetts Contractor License Search

What You Should Know about Hiring a Contractor in Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, there are over 50,000 licensed contractors who are actively offering diverse services. It is a wise choice to hire a licensed contractor as this ensures quality and satisfactory delivery on your project. Licensed contractors are conversant with relevant regulatory codes and industry standards. Also, licensed contractors hold bonds and insurance policies that cover unplanned damages, work-related injuries, and uncompleted work.

Besides verifying your contractor's license to ensure you do not fall victim to fraudulent contractors, you should also consider the following issues before hiring a contractor in Massachusetts:

Who Is a Contractor in Massachusetts?

Contractors are individuals or businesses in Massachusetts who provide construction and home improvement project services to others in exchange for money. Before contractors can start offering their services in Massachusetts, they must follow state licensing regulations. Massachusetts Office of Public Safety and Inspections is responsible for issuing contractor licenses, while the state's Division of Occupational Licensure issues specialty licenses like plumbers, electricians, and sheet metal technicians. Finally, licensed contractors intending to work on residential projects must register with the Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation as home improvement contractors.

In Massachusetts, contractors can be categorized into two main types, including:

  • General Contractors: These contractors mainly handle home improvement and construction projects on behalf of their clients. They may also perform other non-trade-related tasks that do not relate to specialty trades like plumbing and electrical work. Most Massachusetts contractors focus on industrial, commercial, or residential projects. General contractors in Massachusetts who work on buildings less than 35,000 cubic feet must obtain a license from the Office of Public Safety and Inspections. Similarly, those who do home improvement work are required to register with the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulations. Nevertheless, general contractors can be subdivided into three categories:
    • Unrestricted construction supervisor license (CSL): This license allows contractors to work on structures and buildings less than 35,000 cubic feet. It also covers forms used for agricultural purposes and one- and two-family dwellings.
    • Restricted construction supervisor license (CSL): This license only covers work on single-family dwellings and two-family houses. Various types of specialty CSLs include masonry, roof covering, windows, doors, siding, and demolition.
    • Home Improvement Contractor: to work on residential projects, all general contractors in the state must be registered as home improvement contractors with the state. This registration pertains to work on individual or individual-owned residential properties or existing one- to four-unit.
  • Specialty Contractors: these contractors offer a wide range of services for home improvement and construction projects. Some of these include painters, carpenters, masons, and electricians. These individuals need a trade license to operate. A specialty contractor can work individually or as a subcontractor in a project.

How to Search for a Contractor's License in Massachusetts

Massachusetts state agencies regulate and license general, specialty, and home improvement contractors. Uhire's Professional License Search tool can help you confirm that your contractor has the necessary licenses to perform your work. It allows you to search for licenses based on various factors, such as the company's name, address, and license number. Similarly, you can use the following state platforms to verify the licensing status of your preferred contractor in Massachusetts:

  • The Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation's Home Improvement Contractor Registration Lookup platform to confirm if your prospective home improvement contractor has been registered.
  • The Massachusetts Division of Occupational Licensure ePlace Portal to check specialty contractors (plumbers, electricians, steel metal technicians) licensing status.
  • The Massachusetts Office of Public Safety and Inspections Check State License database or by contacting the office at:
1000 Washington Street
Suite 710,
Boston, MA 02118
Phone: (617) 727-3200
Open Monday to Friday, 8:45 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

These platforms help determine if your hiring contractor has complied with mandatory licensing requirements.

Penalty for Hiring a Contractor Without a License in Massachusetts

Even though Massachusetts does not have any laws against hiring unlicensed contractors, doing so can have various negative implications, like:

  • You may be putting yourself at risk by hiring an unlicensed contractor lacking the necessary expertise or experience to do the work. This can result in substandard services and safety hazards, which can compromise the success of your project.
  • Most unlicensed contractors do not have adequate bond or insurance coverage. Hiring them means you are liable for any losses that may arise due to their failure to fulfill their obligations.
  • Unlicensed contractors can not legally carry out your project due to the lack of permits, and they may also disregard building and construction codes, which could lead to violations and a reduction in your property's value.

In Massachusetts, contractors must follow the licensing requirements to operate legally. Violating this rule is punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and a jail term of up to two years.

How Much Does a Contractor Charge in Massachusetts?

Typically, Massachusetts residents pay around $50 to $120 an hour for the services of specialty contractors. However, this figure is subject to change due to various factors, such as the scope of the project and the labor intensity.

Below is a table that shows the average hourly rates individuals in Massachusetts can expect to pay for different subcontractors and specialty workers. The rates are also subject to various factors, such as the reputation of the contractor and your location:

$50 - $120
$50 - $200
HVACR Technicians
$60 - $150
$40 - $100
$25 - $75
$60 - $95
Flooring Contractors
$55 - $90
$50 - $150
$50 - $150
$80 - $200
Interior Designers
$70 - $200
Excavation Contractors
$65 - $150
Concrete Contractors
$60 - $90
$45 - $80
Appliance Repair Technicians
$45 - $90
$50 - $100
Cleaning Services
$50 - $95
$50 - $130

In Massachusetts, a home improvement or construction project typically requires the involvement of several parties, including specialty contractors and laborers, as well as various materials suppliers. Being able to supervise these individuals can be a time-consuming process. However, you can hire a general contractor to handle these responsibilities and supervise the project's day-to-day operations. A general contractor in Massachusetts charges a certain percentage of the total project cost, ranging from 10 to 20 percent. Nevertheless, you can calculate actual expenses by utilizing the following pricing methods:

  • Fixed Bid/Lump Sum Pricing: This pricing method allows the general contractor to provide a fixed price for the project, including a markup to cover unexpected costs.
  • Time and Materials/Cost-Plus Pricing: This pricing method allows the contractor to charge a set amount for the materials and labor and a predefined fee for their services. Although this method is generally preferred for projects that do not have specific timelines, a maximum price should be set to ensure that the budget won't be exceeded.

A home improvement or construction project in Massachusetts costs between $100 and $250 per square foot. However, the actual expenses will be determined by various factors, including:

  • Your location,
  • Contractor fees,
  • Labor and material costs,
  • The scope of the project,
  • Accessibility to the project site and site conditions,
  • Permit fees and other miscellaneous expenses
  • The experience and local reputation of the contractors involved

Tips for Hiring a Contractor in Massachusetts

Carrying out construction and renovation projects can be costly, with home repairs and renovations costing Americans around $500 billion annually. Since these projects can be costly, you must hire a reliable and skilled contractor for them. A few tips can help you choose the right contractor for your project in Massachusetts:

  • Determine the project scope and required contractors.
  • Seek recommendations from friends, family, or neighbors.
  • Ensure that the contractor is appropriately licensed to operate in Massachusetts. You can also check your prospective contractor registration status or if there is an existing complaint against them.
  • Request proof of liability insurance and workers' compensation coverage.
  • Ask the contractor for references from past clients and contact them to inquire about the contractor's work ethic.
  • Obtain and compare multiple quotes from several contractors for your project. Avoid choosing solely based on the lowest price.
  • Review any contract before signing carefully and ensure you read and understand all terms and conditions.
  • Be cautious of contractors who demand a full payment upfront.
  • Confirm that the contractor can obtain all necessary permits for your project. Ensure they are knowledgeable about applicable local building codes and regulations.
  • Make sure the project is actually complete before making final payments.

Is Your Contractor Insured and Bonded as Required by Massachusetts Statutes?

While contractors in Massachusetts are not mandated to carry liability insurance, they must carry workers' compensation insurance for their employees, if any. When choosing a contractor, ensure that they are adequately bonded and insured to protect yourself from various risks associated with their work. Although bonds and liability insurance are commonly used interchangeably, they have essential differences. Liability insurance covers liability costs associated with injuries, accidents, and similar incidents. On the other hand, bonds are financial instruments that protect you from losses should the contractor fail to follow their contract's terms.

Thus, before you commit to a contractor, ask them to provide copies of their bond and insurance certificates. Also, contact the relevant issuing company to confirm that their coverage limits are adequate for your project's scope.

Top Home Improvement Scams in Massachusetts

While home improvement scams in Massachusetts are relatively low, with an estimated 1 out of every 10,000 homeowners falling victim, it is still essential to look for these deceptive practices. Some of the tactics and schemes used by dishonest contractors in Massachusetts to steal from people looking to improve or renovate their homes include these:

  • False claims of having licenses, insurance, or certifications
  • Offers extremely low bids to attract homeowners, and once hired, they request additional payments
  • Insist on receiving total or substantial upfront payments
  • Exaggerate the extent of repairs needed
  • Engage in door-to-door solicitation
  • High-pressure tactics to prevent homeowners from carrying out proper research
  • Use of low-quality materials
  • Avoids or hesitant about providing written Contracts

Although there is always the risk of encountering a fraudulent contractor when carrying out home improvement projects, you can still minimize your chances of getting victimized by following these precautions:

  • Verify your prospective contractor's license and certifications with the relevant authorities in Massachusetts. Check for any complaints or legal issues filed against them.
  • Avoid door-to-door contractors
  • Get and compare quotes from at least three contractors for your project.
  • Ask for references from past clients.
  • Insist on a detailed, written contract that includes your scope of work, materials, project timeline, and labor costs.
  • Avoid upfront payments and keep the down payment at 10 to 30 percent of the total cost. You should also let subsequent payments reflect the progress of the work.
  • Ensure the contractor has liability insurance, bond, and workers' compensation coverage.
  • Avoid making cash payments to contractors.
  • Keep a Record of all documentation, including contracts, invoices, and communication with the contractor

How to Report Fraudulent Massachusetts Contractors

Several organizations can handle complaints you have against a contractor in Massachusetts, including:

The Massachusetts Board of Building Regulations and Standards (BBRS):

If your contractor has violated a provision of the Massachusetts State Building Code while working on your project, you can file a complaint with the state's Board of Building Regulations and Standards online, or you can print and send the completed form via mail to:

Office of Public Safety and Inspections
Construction Supervisor Licensing Complaint Program
1000 Washington Street, Suite 710
Boston, MA 02118

The Massachusetts Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation

If you hire an unregistered home improvement contractor, you can file a complaint against them with the state's Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation by completing a complaint form and sending it via mail to:

Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation
Home Improvement Contractor Program
1000 Washington Street
Suite 710
Boston, MA 02118

The Massachusetts Attorney General's Office

You can report cases of contractors' home improvement scams, fraud, and deceptive business practices in Massachusetts to the state's Attorney General's Office by completing an online complaint form.

Small Claims Court

You can file a small claims lawsuit against a contractor for breach of contract or personal injury in the Boston Municipal Court (BMC), District Court, or Housing Court. Unlike other types of lawsuits, small claims cases must not exceed $5,000 and are simple to file. The filing fee for small claims cases is around $40 to $150, depending on how much you want to retrieve from the contractor.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB)

The local branch of the Better Business Bureau can also help you recover from contractors who have scammed you. Reporting fraudulent contractors also helps protect other homeowners from getting ripped off.

Local Police Departments

In the case of theft or threats, you should immediately contact the local police department. They can take appropriate action against the contractor.