What Are Ohio Contractors?
Home improvement contractors are professionals who execute repair, replacement, alteration, refurbishment, remodeling, and rebuilding works on residential properties. Municipalities in Ohio typically set the requirements for, and issue, home improvement contractor licenses locally. However, electrical, HVAC, hydronic, plumbing, and refrigeration contractors are required to obtain state-level contractor licenses through the Ohio Construction Industry Licensing Board (OCILB) of the state’s Department of Commerce. It is estimated that more than 12,000 contractors belong to these categories.
In addition to this, the State of Ohio equally evaluates and licenses professionals in other industries through professional boards such as the Accountancy Board of Ohio, the State Medical Board of Ohio, the State Board of Registration for Professional Engineers and Surveyors, and the Ohio State Board of Education. All these occupational regulatory boards enforce ethical and regulatory compliance, ensuring that only qualified and deserving individuals serve members of the public in Ohio.
Similarly, the over 38,000 attorneys that serve individuals, businesses, and the government in Ohio are admitted into the practice of law by the Board of Bar Examiners of the Supreme Court of Ohio. The Supreme Court of Ohio also regulates the activities of these attorneys, including the certification of attorneys in 18 fields of the practice of law.
Tips for Hiring a Contractor
Aside from wanting to have your home improvement projects completed in due time, it is normal to also look forward to receiving top-quality service that matches the project's financial costs. To achieve this, you must take the necessary steps to ensure that you make the most informed contractor hiring decisions for your residential property projects. The tips below can help you avoid common pitfalls when hiring home improvement contractors:
- Hire based on references. Your relatives, neighbors, and colleagues who have had a similar project executed in the past can always point you to the contractors they hired.
- Research and vet the contractors that have been referred to you. A lot could have changed about these contractors since they worked for those who referred them. Ask to be referred to their most recently completed projects, particularly projects that are similar to yours.
- Inspect and assess prospective contractors’ projects, and ensure to speak to their past employers about their overall level of satisfaction with the contractor’s job.
- Ask for a state-issued license from electrical, plumbing, hydronic, refrigeration, and HVAC contractors, and verify these licenses accordingly with the OCILB. For projects outside these categories, you must ask to see a home improvement contractor license issued by a recognized regulatory agency in your municipality.
- Obtain and compare written quotes and project estimates from prospective contractors to avoid being charged prices outside the industry range.
- Request for a written project contract from the contractor, which both you and the contractor will sign. Key information that a home improvement contract must contain include the full name, address, and contact information of the homeowner and the contractor, a complete description of the proposed project and required materials, a statement of the total cost of the project and payment arrangement, a project schedule, a written statement of the contractor warranties and deliverable promises, and a clause that mandates written approval for any change in contract terms.
- Hire a qualified attorney to vet the project’s contract. This will ensure you do not put yourself in a vulnerable position by signing a contract that compromises your homeowner rights. Also, when you involve qualified attorneys in your project’s legal works, they can deploy all relevant legal provisions if a problem arises. This will ensure that your rights are upheld.
- Ensure that a contractor obtains all required work permits from the relevant local agencies. Given that only licensed contractors can lawfully obtain such work permits, enforcing it will further help you weed out unlicensed contractors and imposters.
- Avoid paying in cash as much as possible. Using credit cards and checks serves a good record-keeping purpose, allows you to revoke a payment order, and possibly track down the contractor if a problem arises.
- Make payments in installments and in tandem with the level of progress on the project. Avoid making large down payments, as this may give room for a contractor to make away with a substantial amount of your money without completing the job.
- Make sure to safely keep all documents and paperwork relating to your projects, such as a copy of the project contract, change orders, permits, payment evidence and receipts, warranties, and loan or financing documents.
Always remember that the Ohio Home Solicitation Sales Act gives you the right to cancel any home improvement contract signed in your home, or in places other than the contractor’s permanent place of business within three business days of entering into such a contract. Similarly, the Ohio Mechanic Lien’s Law protects you from paying twice for project supplies or having a lien placed on your property unjustly. The law states that once you have paid the home improvement contractor the full cost of a project, no supplier or subcontractor has the right to place a mechanic’s lien on your home. Also, no contractor, subcontractor, laborer, or supply company may place a lien on your home once 60 days have passed since the project was completed.
To report an erring contractor, you may contact the Consumer Protection Section of the state’s Attorney General’s office at (614) 466-2170. Alternatively, you can report to your local building regulatory agency.
How to Search a Contractor’s License in Ohio?
The Ohio Construction Industry Licensing Board (OCILB) issues state-level licenses to electrical, refrigeration, plumbing, and hydronic contractors, while the licensing of other types of contractors is handled locally by various municipal authorities across the state. Confirming that your contractor has been duly licensed by the appropriate agency provides you with a measure of confidence in this individual’s skills and professionalism.
You can search for locally-issued contractor licenses by contacting the licensing agency that regulates the activities of contractors in your municipality. Similarly, you can access information on a contractor's state-issued license by using the OCILB’s License Lookup tool to perform name, credential number, or location-based searches.
Per Ohio Revised Code Section 4740.99, unlicensed contracting is considered a minor misdemeanor for first offenders and a fourth-degree misdemeanor for subsequent offenders. These offenses are punishable by financial sanctions of up to $250 and jail time of up to 30 days. In addition, the OCILB is also authorized to impose civil penalties of up to $1,000 per day per violation on unlicensed contractors.
How Much Does a Contractor Charge in
Generally, home improvement contractors charge homeowners based on the type of project to be executed, the distance of the worksite to their location and its accessibility, and the scope of work. Contractors will typically charge more for projects that require that they use a team of artisans or subcontractors. The project costing arrangement, such as whether costs will include the cost of materials or not, will also usually determine what a home improvement contractor charges. On average, Ohio home improvement contractors charge between $35 to $50 per hour. The estimates for the fee range of the different categories of home improvement contractors are given below:
Similarly, attorneys who provide professional legal services for home improvement contracting and other similar businesses charge an average hourly fee between $100 - $300. The exact amount to be charged is often influenced by an attorney’s experience, reputation, and relevant certification.
What Are Home
Scams in Ohio?
Home improvement scams involve the use of various deceptive tactics such as using substandard materials, abandoning a project midway after receiving a substantial down payment, and deliberately doing poor work. From the pool of contractors offering home improvement services to members of the public in Ohio, there will no doubt be disreputable contractors who aim to cheat unsuspecting homeowners. Therefore, homeowners must take the steps necessary to avoid falling victim to these unscrupulous contractors. Some of the indications that a home improvement contractor may be scheming to scam you include:
- The contractor’s lack of license and consequent inability to obtain valid work permits
- The contractor’s refusal to provide a written quote
- The contractor’s continuous dismissal of the need for a written and signed contract, especially for projects that involve substantial amounts of money
- The contractor’s lack of a verifiable business identity, such as a lack of permanent business location and contact information.
- The contractor’s use of unmarked vehicles or out-of-state vehicle plate numbers
- The contractor’s request for payment to be made into an account that has a name different from the business’ name
Homeowners may report scams that they see or are aware of to the Office of the Ohio Attorney General online. Likewise, homeowners who have fallen victim to a contractor scam can report these scams by completing and mailing a Consumer Complaint Form to the Consumer Protection Section of the state’s Attorney General’s office at:
- Consumer Protection Section
- 30 East Broad Street
- 14th floor
- Columbus, OH 43215-3400
What are Common Home Improvement Scams in Ohio?
In addition to realizing the inherent risks in executing a home improvement project, homeowners must also be able to perceive a fraudulent scheme from a distance and be able to take steps to avoid falling victim. This is especially important for older homeowners who are considered soft targets and incapable of properly scrutinizing a contractor. Some of the most frequent types of home improvement scams in Ohio include:
- Bait-and-Switch Scams: This scam involves the use of cheap materials and discounted project costs, typically in a project quote or advertisement, to get a deal from the homeowner. The fraudulent contractor then attempts to increase the prices and costs of the project by claiming the homeowner does not qualify for the advertised discounts. This tactic is considered unlawful in Ohio. You can avoid this by insisting on a price guarantee in your project contract.
- Slip Sheeting Scams: This is basically a home improvement project contract scam. The dubious contractor, sometimes in connivance with a lender, sneaks a malicious document into the project’s paperwork for the homeowner to sign. An example of such a fraudulent document could be a second mortgage deed. The prevalence of this type of scam underscores why it is important for homeowners to involve qualified attorneys in their home improvement projects, particularly in aspects that have to do with the project paperwork.
- Referral Sale Scam: Another illegal practice in Ohio is the referral sale scheme. It involves a contractor promising you a commission or discount for providing them with names of other possible buyers. Wait until your home improvement project has been satisfactorily completed before making any referrals. Instead of a discount on project costs, request a commission and ensure you get an agreement in writing in order to guarantee payment.
In Ohio, there are no state laws specifying the maximum down payment for home improvement projects. However, it is advisable to pay an upfront fee that is only enough to procure the needed supplies, and only make subsequent payments for work already done.
Suspected or confirmed home improvement scams in Ohio can be reported to the state’s Attorney General’s Office. In March 2021, the Ohio State Attorney General’s office instituted a lawsuit against a home improvement contractor who had taken more than $210,000 from homeowners in the state but refused to do the work that was paid for. By taking money without offering the required products and services, the contractor had violated the Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act. In a similar case in May 2021, the Office of the Ohio Attorney General filed a lawsuit against a dubious home improvement contractor for taking around $60,000 from homeowners for home improvement projects and afterward completely failed to show up to start the jobs or did shoddy work.
What are Disaster Scams in Ohio?
In the wake of property-damaging disasters such as floods, fire outbreaks, and tornadoes, home improvement contractors go into the affected communities and neighborhoods offering their services to affected homeowners. While some of these contractors are genuine and offer top-quality services, a proportion of them are out to defraud homeowners of funds meant to repair and renovate the damaged properties.
In February 2021, the Office of the Ohio Attorney General brought a lawsuit against a home repair contractor who had scammed homeowners of amounts running into $95,650 meant to repair their properties which were affected by the Dayton-area 2019 tornadoes. The contractor ended up doing shoddy work, and in some instances, failed to do the work at all.
Although homeowners may have suffered substantial losses and property damages after a disaster, it is still necessary to be on the alert when prospective home improvement contractors come around offering their services. The following precautionary guidelines will be helpful in hiring a contractor after a disaster:
- Homeowners must resist the urge to hire the first contractor that shows up at their doorstep. It is better to choose from a pool of prospective contractors after carefully assessing each contractor’s licenses, job experience, and project quotes.
- Homeowners must make sure to work with only known contractors, particularly those who were well-known and well-reputed before the disaster. Strange and unknown contractors may be scammers posing as contractors to commit disaster scams.
- Ohio homeowners can research consumer complaints about each prospective contractor on the website of the state’s Attorney General.
- Homeowners must ask for valid identification from anyone who claims to be a government inspection officer.
- Homeowners who have agreed to hire contractors must ask that a physical work contract and service warranty agreement be prepared.
- Homeowners must enforce work permits and completely avoid contractors who dismiss the need for one. This is usually a tactic to escape the watchful eyes of regulators.
Homeowners can report incidents of disaster scams online through the state’s Attorney General’s website.
What are Common Legal
Work Scams in Ohio?
Legal work scams occur when an individual, usually an attorney or someone purportedly offering legal services, defrauds another person of money, assets, or other valuables. Legal scams can take several forms, including legal contract frauds, investment contract frauds, and clients' account wire fraud. Therefore, when consumers deal with attorneys or other persons in matters relating to the law, they must take extra precautions to prevent falling for a legal work scam. The following are common legal work scams in Ohio:
- Dubious persons present themselves as immigration experts or notaries and offer to provide immigration help to consumers. Consumers will usually find out that these notaries can not offer any tangible help only after having made payments.
- An attorney files for a disability aid or other social welfare scheme in clients’ names without their knowledge
- An attorney diverts money from clients’ accounts for personal use
- Attorneys inexplicably withdraw from the active representation of clients after receiving payment for the services that they should have rendered.
The tips below will help consumers avoid falling victim to legal scams:
- Working with only qualified and licensed attorneys. Consumers can research an attorney’s professional registration status and disciplinary history online via the Attorney Directory provided by the Supreme Court of Ohio.
- Hiring attorneys based on referrals from relatives, trusted associates, and approved Lawyer Referral Services (LRS). In addition to LRS listings provided by the Ohio State Bar Association, the Supreme Court of Ohio also accredits Lawyer Referral and Information Services Providers in the state.
- Asking for updates on case and account information in a timely manner. This can be complemented by making arrangements for case and account reporting at regular intervals and through a method that is convenient for both the client and attorney.
- Seeking a second opinion from another qualified attorney if there are uncertainties regarding a decision or action their attorneys have proposed.
The Supreme Court of Ohio maintains the Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection to compensate clients who have been cheated and defrauded of monies and other assets as a result of an attorney’s dishonesty. Victims of attorney fraud in Ohio can file a claim by completing and mailing an Application for Reimbursement form with the documents supporting their case to:
- The Lawyers’ Fund for Client Protection
- Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center
- 65 South Front Street
- 5th Floor
- Columbus, OH 43215- 3431
However, there are no guarantees that Ohioans that file claims will receive compensation, as decisions are at the discretion of the Board.
Consumers can also report professional malpractices and misconduct by attorneys at the Office of Disciplinary Counsel of the Supreme Court of Ohio. The procedure for filing a grievance involves downloading and completing a grievance form and then uploading the completed form on the agency’s website.
How Long Does it Take to Get a License in
The time it will take to obtain locally issued home improvement contractor licenses in each municipality varies and depends on factors such as the category of license, the number of licensure requirements, and the volume of applications that the regulatory agencies handle regularly. Persons interested in obtaining a local contractor license must make inquiries at the relevant regulatory agency for an accurate application processing timeframe.
The OCILB does not specify a license processing period for state-issued contractor licenses. However, the time taken to process a license is considerably affected by how soon applicants sit for their licensing exams after the Board has reviewed and approved their initial application. Note that applicants that the Board has approved will typically also have to undertake a State and Federal Background Check.
How to Maintain your License in Ohio
Holders of municipal contractor licenses will have to visit the relevant issuing authorities to reflect changes in license information such as name, contact information, and address. However, contractors with state-issued licenses can maintain their licenses online through the license management platform provided by the OCILB. License maintenance services available to licensees include change of name, change of contact information, and switching licenses between active and inactive statuses. License holders can also carry out a contracting company name change by completing and mailing the Contracting Company Name Change Request & Guidelines Form, together with supporting documents such as the original license and new liability insurance, to the Ohio Construction Industry Licensing Board at:
- 6606 Tussing Road
- P.O. Box 4009
- Reynoldsburg, OH 43068-9009
Licensed contractors are required to complete eight hours of continuing education classes as a requirement for one-year license renewals. Those who intend to renew their licenses every three years must complete 24 hours of continuing education before each renewal request. Note that although state-issued licenses in Ohio may remain in an inactive status indefinitely, holders of such licenses must complete up to 24 hours of continuing education to reactivate their licenses and resume active practice.
Similarly, active attorneys in Ohio must complete and report 24 hours of approved Continuing Legal Education (CLE) activities every two years. Registered attorneys can also use the Attorney Services Portal to change information like the legal name and residential and business addresses listed in their registration certificates. Alternatively, attorneys can change their name and other registration information and equally request a replacement bar card, by submitting a Change of Information and Replacement Card Form via fax to (614) 387-9323. The completed form can also be mailed to:
- Office of Attorney Services
- Supreme Court of Ohio
- 65 South Front Street
- 5th Floor
- Columbus, OH 43215-3431
How to Renew
Contractor License in
While contractors with a local contractor license must visit the relevant local issuing authorities for instructions on license renewal, holders of state-issued contractor licenses can renew their licenses online, annually, or every three years, via the OCILB eLicense Center.
Likewise, active Ohio state attorneys must complete a biennial online registration via the Attorney Services Portal of the state Judiciary before September 1 of every odd-numbered year. This registration comes with a fee which the state’s Supreme Court assesses. Attorneys whose licenses are in inactive status do not have to complete the biennial registration but must provide their current business and residence addresses and other contact information to the Supreme Court of Ohio.