North Carolina Contractor License Search

What You Should Know about Hiring a Contractor in North Carolina

Most professions are regulated at the state level in North Carolina and there are over 45,000 licensed contractors in the state. It is essential to hire licensed contractors when undertaking a project because they are adequately trained and are aware of relevant regulatory codes and standards to deliver any work satisfactorily. Also, a licensed contractor's insurance coverage and bond save you from financial liabilities from on-site damages and injuries. While you avoid the evils of fraudulent contractors by ensuring your contractor is licensed for the job, you should also consider the following issues before signing a contract:

Who Is a Contractor in North Carolina?

A contractor is a person or business that performs services based on an agreement that may be oral or written. The North Carolina Licensing Board for General Contractors (NCLBGC) and other boards, such as the North Carolina State Board of Examiners of Plumbing, Heating, and Fire Sprinkler Contractors, are responsible for licensing contractors in the state. Contractors can broadly be classified into general or specialty in North Carolina.

  • General Contractors: Under North Carolina construction laws, general contractors refer to individuals and businesses that construct or manage the construction of any building, highway, public utilities, grading, improvement, or structure. General contractors require licenses when the value of the project they are undertaking is $30,000 or more, and they are subdivided into categories based on the kind of project they undertake. These include:
    • Building Contractors: These contractors handle construction and demolition projects across all building types, including commercial, industrial, institutional, and residential buildings.
    • Residential Contractors: Contractors in this category execute projects relating only to residential buildings.
    • Highway Contractors: Contractors in this classification focus on constructing and repairing roads, bridges, gutters, drains, and related structures.
    • Public Utility Contractors: These contractors focus on utilities, including water and sewer mains, electricity, communication, and gas distribution facilities.
  • Specialty Contractors: Specialty contractors or "subcontractors" specialize in a particular aspect or area of construction, such as plumbing, roofing, electricity, or HVAC. General contractors hire or subcontract them to perform these tasks in a larger project.

General and electrical contractors are also subdivided based on the value of the work they can undertake. The classification includes:

  • Limited License: A general contractor with a limited license can undertake a project valued at up to $750,000. The maximum limit for electrical contractors is $60,000 or 600 volts.
  • Intermediate License: The maximum limit for general contractors in this classification is $1,500,000. The limit for electrical contractors is $150,000.
  • Unlimited License: There is no project value restriction on holders of an unlimited license. They can undertake projects of any value.

How to Search for a Contractor's License in North Carolina

Most North Carolina contractor licenses are issued at the state level. You can verify contractor licenses using the Uhire professional license search tool or through the relevant licensing boards. For example, you can verify general contractor licenses on the NCLBGC's license search portal or by calling (919) 571-4183. Likewise, for plumbing, HVAC, and fire sprinkler contractor licenses, you may check the licensing board's license search webpage or call (919) 875-3612 to verify the license. For electrical contractors, you can check the State Board of Examiners of Electrical Contractors's (NCBEEC) verify license search portal or call (919) 733-9042.

Penalty for Hiring a Contractor without a License in North Carolina

North Carolina laws do not specify any penalties for those who hire unlicensed contractors. Regardless, it is not the best to do so for several reasons, including:

  • An unlicensed contractor can be fraudulent and scam you.
  • An unlicensed contractor may be of doubtful expertise and may do damage to your project.
  • Unlicensed contractors are unable to obtain permits for the projects they perform. Local authorities can fine homeowners for proceeding with a project without obtaining the required permits.
  • Unlicensed contractors are usually uninsured as well. This means you would bear financial risk for damage and injuries during the project.

Also, note that violating the state's various licensing requirements is considered a class 2 misdemeanor offense under North Carolina Enacted Statutes Chapter 87. There are criminal and civil penalties for such violations, which include jail time of up to 60 days, fines of up to $1,000, or a combination of both.

How Much Does a Contractor Charge in North Carolina?

The hourly cost of hiring a specialty contractor in North Carolina ranges from as low as $8 to $116. The actual cost depends on various factors, including the type of task, the size of the contracting firm, and your location. Below is a table containing the hourly rates of popular subcontractors in North Carolina.

$14 - $44
$14 - $47
HVACR Technicians
$10 - $36
$12 - $30
$10 - $25
$11 - $23
Flooring Contractors
$10 - $35
$10 - $32
$8 - $19
$44 - $116
Interior Designers
$4 - $34
Excavation Contractors
$12 - $36
Concrete Contractors
$12 - $26
$14 - $37
Appliance Repair Technicians
$10 - $31
$10 - $26
Cleaning Services
$8 - $19
$10 - $23

On the other hand, general contractors have several ways of charging for their services. They can bill for a percentage of the total construction fee, usually 10% to 20%. This is known as the cost-plus contract approach. Alternatively, the contractor can charge a fixed price lump sum predetermined or based on time spent on the project.

The average construction cost in North Carolina ranges between $118 and $150 per square foot. The eventual cost of the project depends on the scope of work, the extent of labor and subcontractors required, and the cost of materials.

Tips for Hiring a Contractor in North Carolina.

Choosing the right contractor is one of the most important decisions you are to make if you plan a home improvement project in North Carolina. A good contractor can ensure quality work, while the wrong one can cause difficulties and make you incur unreasonable expenses. Here are tips to help you make the right choice when hiring a contractor in North Carolina:

  • Avoid hiring contractors that offer their services door to door. Note that North Carolina law gives you the right to cancel a contract you enter outside of the contractor's place of business within three days of signing the contract.
  • Get and compare estimates for your work from at least three contractors.
  • Ensure that your contractor is licensed. You can utilize the Uhire professional license search tool to confirm this.
  • Do some research on the contractor before you hire. Check for reviews about the contractor on Better Business Bureau, Google Review, and Yelp. You can also access a contractor's complaint history with the North Carolina Attorney General's Office by calling 877-5-NO-SCAM.
  • Get a written contract that outlines what the work entails. Ensure that it specifies the materials for the project and their overall cost, including that of labor and any warranties or guarantees.
  • Request the contractor's insurance policy or bond and then verify the coverage by contacting the insurance company.

Is Your Contractor Insured and Bonded as Required by North Carolina Statute?

In North Carolina, insurance policies or bonds are not compulsory for general contractors, and these contractors can choose whether to maintain one or not. However, by state law, contractors with three or more employees must always maintain valid workers' compensation insurance.

Be that as it may, reputable contractors always endeavor to hold the appropriate bond and insurance policy. It is a desirable factor when looking out for a contractor as it protects you and the contractor from unplanned financial burdens linked to your project. On the one hand, liability insurance caters to liability arising from the project, such as damage to your property and neighbors. Meanwhile, workers' compensation insurance covers injuries sustained by workers while executing the project.

On the other hand, contractors' bond guarantees protect homeowners from the financial effects of the contractor's non-performance or when the work is left uncompleted, sub-standard, or defective. As such, you won't bear the burden of any misdeeds of the contractor in the execution of your project.

Top Home Improvement Scams in North Carolina

U.S. homeowners report 6,124 scams per year on average. In 2021 alone, the Office of the North Carolina Attorney General received over 800 reports of home improvement issues. Protecting yourself from these scams is essential, as they come with heavy losses. Unfortunately, Americans lose nearly $14 million each year to fraudulent contractors.

Some common tactics that fraudulent contractors use to scam North Carolina homeowners include:

  • Offering services door to door, usually more intensely after disasters.
  • Requiring you to make large or complete payments up-front.
  • Trying to get you to make hasty decisions about your project.
  • Claiming to have leftover materials from a previous job completed nearby.
  • Preferring cash payments.
  • Reluctance to have your agreement put down in writing.

You can avoid these scams by taking the following actions before committing to contractors:

  • Always research a company before deciding to do business with them. Look out for reviews and complaints about the contractor by asking around or checking platforms like Better Business Bureau or Yelp. Also, ask the contractor for references from past customers and check them.
  • Verify that the contractor is licensed using the Uhire professional license search tool or other alternative methods like confirming with the relevant licensing board.
  • Have an idea of what your project entails by getting written estimates from at least three contractors.
  • Always insist on a written contract and know that you have three days to cancel a contract entered outside the contractor's place of business.
  • Avoid paying for the work before the contractor completes it. Also, ensure you inspect the work done to your satisfaction before paying.
  • Avoid giving in to free inspections, as scammers use this opportunity to find inexistent problems and pressure you into fixing them.
  • Avoid making cash payments, and ensure that you keep records of your transactions with your contractor.

How to Report Fraudulent North Carolina Contractors

If you fall victim to an unscrupulous contractor in North Carolina, you can contact any of the following agencies and offices, taking note of the particular kinds of complaints they handle.

The Licensing Authority

There are several state-regulated licensing boards in North Carolina. Determine the one related to the contractor's services and file your complaint with the agency. The NCLBGC receives complaints relating to general contractors. You can file complaints with the board online, via email, or in person at the board's office located at:

5400 Creedmoor Road
Raleigh, NC 27612.
Phone: (919) 571-4183

The NCBEEC receives online complaints about electricians.

Attorney General of North Carolina.

The Office of the Attorney General receives complaints about home improvement scams and price gouging. Price gouging refers to instances where contractors inflate prices following disasters. You can file complaints with the office online or by calling 877-5-NO-SCAM. The Office would reach out to the business and try to settle the dispute amicably. If this procedure fails, the complainant may be advised to file a claim before the Small Claims Court.

Small Claims Court

Small Claims or Magistrate Court is a county court that handles claims not exceeding $10,000 in value. Complainants before the court do not typically need the services of an attorney. Nonetheless, ensure that you organize all the proof relating to the case, including payment documents and correspondence with the contractor, before instituting a claim in court. Cases before the court are usually heard within one month of lawsuit filing.

Better Business Bureau (BBB)

The BBB is a non-governmental organization that publishes information about businesses and professionals. It also receives and publishes reviews about the business, including reports of fraudulent activities. Although the BBB offers limited action on reported incidents, publishing the reports can help other homeowners make informed decisions about the contractors they hire for their projects. You can report contractor scams on the BBB website or at any local office near you.

Local Police Department

North Carolina residents can report contractor fraud and other illegal activities to the local police department. The department can investigate the situation and take criminal action against the contractor.