Home Improvement and Construction Contractors

Overview:

At the request of the Senate Committee on Government Operations, the Office of Professional Regulation (OPR) is conducting a sunrise review of professional regulation of home improvement and construction contractors. 

The field is partially regulated under existing law.  The Department of Public Safety, Division of Fire Safety administers licensing and certification of certain tradespeople, such as electricians, plumbers, oil and gas installers, and designers and installers of fire suppression systems.  Generally, these credentials interact with building codes to ensure design and construction integrity in public buildings.  Where disputes arise in large commercial projects, the parties commonly have the resources to seek appropriate remedies through the courts.

Residential work, however, is substantially unregulated.  Vermont law does not control who may call himself or herself a contractor or homebuilder.  A property owner looking to build a new home, to construct an addition, to repair a roof, or to replace windows and doors, may locate a suitable professional on the open market.  Vermont is home to many excellent contractors.  The best often can be identified by reputation and word of mouth.  Nonetheless, the Attorney General’s Consumer Assistance Program annually receives hundreds of consumer complaints alleging losses from fraud or defective work, ranging from a few hundred dollars to many tens of thousands of dollars each.  Damages in this range can be difficult to recoup, because the cost of litigation is high relative to the amount to be recovered.  And when a homeowner does obtain a judgment for damages, nothing ensures contractors have insurance or assets from which to make the homeowner whole.  For these reasons, policymakers are interested in whether registration, certification, or licensure of home improvement contractors might protect consumers.

Process:

OPR’s review is governed by the regulatory policy set out in 26 V.S.A. §§ 3201-3107 (ch. 57).  The chapter calls for a structured, cost-benefit analysis, and it requires that any new regulation be justified by a demonstrated need to prevent real harm to the public.  Our review will follow these policies closely.  Please read the statute to best understand the goals of this sunrise review.  We are particularly interested in:

  • whether and to what extent Vermonters have been harmed by the absence of contractor regulation;
  • if harm to the public exists, what means other than new regulation might be available to mitigate that harm.
  • if harm exists and cannot be prevented without new regulation, what regulatory approach, from registration, to certification, to full licensure, would effectively mitigate that harm;
  • what professional services should be included or excluded from the scope of contracting to be subject to regulation;
  • smart ideas from other jurisdictions Vermont might emulate;
  • failed ideas from other jurisdictions Vermont should avoid; and
  • the effects varying forms of regulation could have on the workforce and market.

 

How to Comment:

We welcome participation in the sunrise analysis from all interested parties, regardless of point of view.  Please send comments to opr.conullmment@nullsec.stnullate.vtnull.us.  Received comments are a public record and may be quoted in OPR’s sunrise report to the Legislature.  Written comments are helpful even if you plan also to testify at a public hearing.

Public Hearings:

Public hearings on contractor regulation will be held at the Office of Professional Regulation, 89 Main Street, 3rd Floor, Montpelier, Vermont 05620-3602:

  • Monday, October 23, 2017 at 9:00am
  • Wednesday, November 29, 2017 at 9:00am

Those unable to attend in person may join the hearings by videoconference from an appropriately equipped smartphone, tablet, or computer. 

If you have questions, or to request a videoconference link, please email Terry Gray at terry.grnullay@sec.snulltate.vt.nullus.  

This page was last updated: 2017-09-01