From the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs
New York City’s Home Improvement Business Law defines a contractor as anyone who “owns, operates, maintains, conducts, controls or transacts a home improvement business” and “undertakes or offers to undertake or agrees to perform any home improvement or solicits any contract therefor,” whether or not the contractor is a prime contractor or subcontractor.
In other words, if you receive an offer to build on, repair, or remodel your home or apartment for a fee, you’re dealing with a contractor. Whether you own or rent, or if the dwelling is a co-op or a condo, this is the rule.
A contractor may be an individual, a company, a partnership, or a corporation. New York City law requires that any person or business that solicits, canvasses, sells, performs, or obtains home improvement work where all costs (including labor, materials, etc.) come to more than $200 total must get an HIC license from the Department of Consumer Affairs.
Who needs a DCA license? Home improvement contractors and salespersons soliciting or doing more than $200 of home improvement work in New York City are required to get a license from the Department of Consumer Affairs.
What is a “Salesperson” and do they need to be licensed? The City law describes a home improvement salesperson as anyone who “negotiates or offers to negotiate a home improvement contract” with a property owner, or “solicits or otherwise endeavors to procure in person a home improvement contract from an owner on behalf of a contractor, or for himself or herself should the salesperson be also the contractor.”
If you are solicited to hire a contractor, the salesperson doing the soliciting needs a Home Improvement Salesperson license. The contractor paying the salesperson must have a Home Improvement Contractor license. If the salesperson is also the contractor, he or she needs both the Home Improvement Contractor and the Home Improvement Salesperson licenses.
Electricians, plumbers, architects, engineers, and security alarm installers are licensed by the State, and therefore do not require a license from Consumer Affairs.
When hiring a contractor, they are required to follow the contract specifications outlined by Consumer Affairs. The home improvement contract is an agreement by a contractor to work on the residence of a homeowner or tenant. The agreement means the contractor promises the homeowner or tenant to perform all labor and services and to furnish all materials specified under the terms of the contract.
A written contract protects you if your contractor goes out of business, or if you can show that the contractor did a bad job. License-holders undergo a criminal history check, pass a written examination, pay a license fee, and post a bond or contribute to a Trust Fund that gives restitution to consumers.
There are thousands of licensed home improvement contractors in New York City. But many contractors work without a license or insurance. Don’t take any chances with your home! A license is no guarantee that a contractor will always engage in proper business conduct. But it gives Consumer Affairs the authority to act on your behalf.
Consumers are often able to get compensation because they hired a licensed contractor. A DCA Trust Fund, based on mandatory contributions from license-holders, makes these payments possible. To find out if a contractor is licensed, call 3-1-1 or go to www.nyc.gov/dca. Make sure you have the name and address of the contractor and/or remodeling business.
Lana Seidman, Executive Director HIC of Staten Island, Inc.
(718) 356-2323 www.hicofsi.org