What Are Georgia Contractors?
The licensing and regulation of contractors and contracting companies in Georgia is handled by the 15 state-appointed board members of the State Licensing Board for Residential and General Contractors. These contractors and contracting companies are people and businesses that construct or oversee the construction of buildings, bridges, or other structures, including industrialized buildings, and they are statutorily required to obtain a state-issued license before performing jobs that are worth more than $2,500. It is estimated that there are about 3,495 individual general and residential contractors, as well as over 10,000 contracting companies, in Georgia.
The state's licensing board provides contracting licenses in two different work categories: residential contracting work and general contracting work. Aspiring contractors can choose to be licensed as either a general contractor, a limited tier general contractor, a residential basic contractor, or a residential light contractor. A general contractor’s license allows a person to carry out all kinds of residential and commercial construction projects without any limits, while a limited tier general contractor's license limits the types of projects that the person can handle to a maximum of $500,000 in total costs per job. On the other hand, a residential basic contractor's license authorizes a person to work on one-family and two-family homes as well as one-family townhomes that are not more than three stories in height, while a residential light contractor's license allows the person to also work on multifamily and multi-residential properties in addition to the work covered by the residential basic contractor's license.
Other professionals who require licenses to practice in Georgia include medical doctors, cosmetologists, and attorneys. Medical doctors and cosmetologists get their licenses from the Georgia Composite Medical Board and the Georgia State Board of Cosmetology and Barbers respectively, while attorneys get theirs from the State Bar of Georgia. As of May 2021, more than 40,590 active attorneys are practicing in Georgia.
Tips for Hiring a Contractor
Whether you intend to undertake a new building project or simply carry out some renovations, you need to strike a proper balance between price, quality, and time. This means that you need to hire a contractor who can deliver quality work at a reasonable price and understands how to manage the project, so it gets finished on time. To ensure you get the right contractor for the job, here a few tips to follow:
- Narrow down the type of project you want to handle. This would help you figure out the type of contractor you need to hire.
- Ask family and friends if they have any recommendations for a potential contractor. You can also contact a local trade organization, like the Home Builders Association of Georgia, to get referrals on contractors in your area.
- Get written estimates from several contractors, and make sure that these estimates are based on identical project specifications.
- Ask to see the contractor's license and then check with the Secretary of State to make sure it is valid.
- Check third-party review sites like Better Business Bureau and Yelp to see if there are any complaints against the contractor.
- Ask the contractor for references of clients who had projects similar to yours. Call each reference to know what their experience was like with the contractor and, if possible, inspect the work that was done by the contractor.
- Ask to see proof of insurance. Make sure that it includes workers' compensation, personal liability, and property damage insurance.
- Insist on a contract for work to be done, with all promises, warranties, and guarantees made in writing.
- Agree with the contractor on the start and completion dates and make sure they are included in the contract.
- Ensure that the contractor gets any building permits under the name you are familiar with. This will protect you from additional expenses if the project does not comply with the building codes.
- Get a written contract and make sure that it outlines a payment schedule that is in line with the progress of the project.
- Ensure that the project matches the terms of the contract after it is completed.
- Do not make payment for any incomplete work.
- Ask the contractor to provide an affidavit of completion when the work is finished.
- Require the contractor to post a bond that assures payment of all subcontractors and suppliers for any sublet work. Alternatively, you can ask subcontractors to sign a lien waiver when they have received payments.
How to Search A Contractor's License in Georgia?
All general and residential contractors are required to carry a license if bidding for any contract higher than $2,500 in Georgia. Licensure for these contractors is handled by the Georgia State Licensing Board for Residential and General Contractors. While licensing for specialty contractors such as electricians, plumbers, and heat and air conditioning contractors is handled by the Georgia Construction Industry Licensing Board. You can check the validity of your contractor's license online by visiting the Licence Lookup/Verification page of the Secretary of State's website. Users can search for a contractor here by name, license type, or license number.
Penalties for working on a contract over $2,500 without a valid license in Georgia are not specifically laid out. However, unlicensed contractors may be barred from any compensation claim under O.C.G.A. §43-41-17(b) for contracts performed as terms of payment are rendered invalid. A few exceptions to this rule include situations where the homeowner was informed of the unlicensed status prior to hiring.
How Much Does a Contractor Charge in
Contractors in Georgia generally charge an hourly rate of $50 to $150. Note that the amount of money a contractor charges in Georgia varies depending on the kind and size of the project, as well as the materials and labor required to complete it. Some of the common hourly rates for various kinds of contractors in Georgia include:
When hiring a contractor in Georgia, it is advisable to also hire an attorney to either draft or review your contract with the contractor. If you choose to retain the services of an attorney in Georgia, you can expect to pay an hourly rate of between $100 to $300.
What Are Home Improvement
Scams in Georgia?
When planning a home improvement project, it is always a good idea to go over various labor and material options and compare them before making a decision. However, in a bid to save money, you can fall victim to unscrupulous contractors whose only aim is to take your money and run. These scammers may be actual contractors or simply posers pretending to be contractors. They use various tactics to get homeowners to hire them and then either do shabby work or simply disappear after taking the money.
To avoid falling prey to these fraudsters, one of the most important steps to take is to ask contractors for a license before making a hire. All contractors in Georgia must be licensed to carry out jobs worth more than $2,500. However, even if your project does not cost up to $2,500, it is still always a good idea to hire a licensed contractor as this assures you that the contractor has the requisite skill and expertise to handle the project. You can verify a contractor’s licensing status online via the State Licensing Board’s website. You should also ask the contractor for proof of workers’ compensation and liability insurance. This minimizes your financial liability if a worker gets injured on your property, if the work is incomplete or faulty, or if your property gets damaged in the course of the project. Finally, avoid paying a large sum of money to the contractor upfront. Although Georgia does not have a law that limits the amount of money contractors can receive as a down payment, it is always advisable to pay not more than 25% of the total sum as a down payment.
If you believe that you have been the victim of a home improvement scam, contact the Georgia Department of Law’s Consumer Protection Division at (800) 869-1123 or (404) 651-8600.
What are Common Home Improvement Scams in Georgia?
Scammers employ several tactics to defraud homeowners who need a contractor's services. These fraudsters regularly target senior residents who are perceived to be more vulnerable and trusting. Some of these home improvement scams include:
- Bait and Switch: Using this tactic, devious contractors send out flyers, create ads on websites or in newspapers, or go door to door. They advertise contracting services for a ridiculously low price. Homeowners see these adverts and believe them to be a great deal. However, when the “contractors” arrive, they claim that the homeowner's house has a different issue than was advertised and requires more work. As such, the homeowner would have to pay much more than the advertised price, sometimes running up to hundreds or thousands of dollars more. These scammers may be actual contractors or simply posers who end up doing shoddy jobs for an extremely high price.
- The Extra Materials Scam: Scammers act as though they have just enough supplies leftover from another job to carry out some work on another home. They claim that they would have to throw the materials away or that the materials would go bad overnight, and so they are willing to do a project at a cheap price if the homeowner lets them use it immediately. However, these extra supplies are usually substandard or potentially dangerous materials thrown together specifically to defraud homeowners. These scammers typically do a rush job that is usually sloppy before making off with the victim's money.
- Upfront payments: Scammers ask homeowners for a large upfront payment, and in certain cases, the total cost of the project before they even begin work. However, most reputable contractors only ask for a small deposit at the start of the project and demand the rest once the job is completed. If it is a large project, then they may ask for small deposits at several stages of the project, but never the total amount upfront. Note that even though the State of Georgia has no law that stipulates the percentage to give contractors as a down payment for a job, it is always a good idea to limit any down payments to 25% of the total cost of a project. Fraudsters that demand upfront payment simply take the money and run, leaving the homeowner with no money and a project that is never even started.
In May 2014, the Governor's Office of Consumer Protection issued a press release warning Georgia senior citizens to beware of home repair scams following the arrest of five persons suspected of conspiring to defraud several elderly residents of the state to the tune of over $74,500 in a home improvement scam.
To avoid falling victim to such scams, citizens are advised to do the following before hiring a contractor:
- Ask for recommendations on contractors from friends and neighbors
- Get competing written estimates from at least three contractors
- Verify the licensing status of the contractors by visiting the Secretary of State’s website
- Get references from contractors willing to do the work and contact those references
- Insist on a written contract that contains all the details of the work to be performed, including the warranties, guarantees, and promises.
- Ask the contractor for proof of insurance, including workers’ compensation, personal liability, and property damage.
- Never make payment in full before the work begins. However, you can make a down payment of not more than 25% of the project’s total cost.
- Pay your contractor with a credit card rather than in cash.
What are Disaster Scams in Georgia?
Disaster scams in Georgia are fraudulent schemes intended to defraud citizens who have had their homes damaged by natural disasters. These scammers generally show up after a weather-related emergency and offer to assist homeowners with tree removal and some home repair work. They usually offer a discount, pressuring the homeowner to act immediately by saying that the offer is only good for a limited period. The fraudsters also tend to insist on payment upfront. However, once they get paid, they disappear without doing any work. In light of this, you should always exercise caution when hiring a contractor to carry out repairs on the property if your home or property has suffered damage due to a natural disaster. Here are some guidelines to follow when hiring a contractor in the aftermath of a disaster in Georgia:
- Consider the exact requirements of the job and the type of contractor you should hire to handle this job.
- Ask friends, neighbors, and coworkers for referrals on contractors.
- Avoid hiring contractors offering their services from door to door.
- Ask for references of previous clients from these contractors and contact each reference.
- Get detailed written estimates from at least three different contractors.
- Verify the contractor's license via the Secretary of State's website to ensure that it is valid.
- Check the Better Business Bureau's website and other third-party websites to see if there are any complaints against the contractor.
- Ensure that any building permits obtained by the contractor are under the contractor’s name or the contractor’s company name.
- Insist that all verbal agreements be in writing
- Avoid paying the full cost of the job at the start of the project.
- Do not make payment in cash.
What are Common Legal
Legal work scams in Georgia are intentional attorney-related deceptive activities designed to secure unlawful or unfair gains from unsuspecting Georgians. These activities may be carried out by actual attorneys or fraudsters pretending to be attorneys and may be done in various ways, including:
- Attorney Robocalls: Scammers use robocalls to call their targets, telling them that legal actions have been taken on their Social Security numbers as a result of fraudulent activities. The targets are then directed to press “1” to speak to an attorney or to call another number if they want to avoid any legal proceedings. When the targets follow these instructions, the fraudsters tell them that they have to pay a large sum of money to resolve the problem and avoid legal consequences. The scammers may also ask their victims to provide their Social Security numbers for verification purposes.
- Law firm catfishing: Fraudsters impersonate attorneys and send emails to their targets. This scam is carried out with the belief that people are more likely to respond to an attorney when requesting sensitive information or payments. Sometimes, the scammers share fake legal documents that are infected with malware or offer fake legal settlements and other rewards in an attempt to obtain sensitive personal information from their targets. They then use this information to make unauthorized purchases, take out loans, or commit other fraudulent activities.
To avoid falling victim to any kind of legal work scam in Georgia, you should do the following:
- Be wary of any person that calls you out of the blue claiming to be an attorney and demanding payment.
- Never give out your sensitive personal information to any person over the phone or via email.
- If you get a call or an email from a person who claims to be a lawyer, utilize the Georgia State’s Bar website to see if the person’s email address and number match the details provided on the site. You can also use this directory to verify the license of the attorney.
- Ask friends, colleagues, or loved ones for recommendations on attorneys.
- Ask the attorney for references and contact them.
- Check third-party review websites like Yelp, Better Business Bureau, and Google Review to find out other people's opinions and experiences with the attorney.
- Avoid paying the attorney in cash.
- Report any unauthorized practice of law to the Georgia State Bar.
How Long Does it Take to Get a License in
The length of time it takes to get a contractor’s license in Georgia is dependent on certain factors like the date of the examinations and the schedule of the Georgia State Licensing Board for Residential and General Contractors. Nonetheless, applicants can check the status of their applications through the Secretary of State’s application status portal.
- State Licensing Board for Residential and General Contractors
- General Contractor Division
- 237 Coliseum Drive
- Macon, GA 31217
If the application is incomplete or contains certain deficiencies, the State Licensing Board sends the applicant a deficiency letter pointing out the areas of deficiency and providing general guidance on how to deal with the deficiencies. The Board may also recommend other licensing options if applicable. On the other hand, if the applicant does not meet the requirements for licensure, the Board sends a denial letter detailing the reasons for the denial and details on how to appeal the denial.
When the application is complete and meets all the requirements, the State Licensing Board approves the application, qualifying the applicant to sit for the state’s Business and Law Exam, as well as the NASCLA Construction Exam. The applicant must sit for these exams within one year of receiving the application approval. Failure to do so will mean beginning the application process afresh. After passing the exams, the applicant is then issued the applicable contractor’s license.
How to Maintain your License in Georgia
Contractor licenses in Georgia are valid for two years, during which the contractor is expected to remain in right standing with the law. The Georgia State Licensing Board for Residential and General Contractors may fine, suspend, or revoke the license of a contractor who commits gross negligence, engages in false advertising, uses an expired or suspended license, does a job without obtaining the necessary local building permits, or abandons a project for more than 90 days. Additionally, residential contractors are required to meet applicable continuing education requirements every year. Georgia Residential Basic license holders must complete 3 hours of continuing education, while Georgia Residential Light Commercial license holders must complete 6 hours of continuing education. Finally, the personal information of a contractor must be up to date on the Board’s database. As such, contractors may change their names or addresses by filling the Change of Name or Address Form and submitting it to:
- State Licensing Board for Residential and General Contractors
- General Contractor Division
- 237 Coliseum Drive
- Macon, GA 31217
Attorneys in Georgia also need to keep their information up to date. Information updates can be done online via the state bar’s membership portal, by sending a fax to the bar’s Membership Department at 404-527-8747, or via email. Georgia attorneys must also complete a minimum of 12 Continuing Legal Education hours annually, including 1 professionalism hour, 1 ethics hour, and 3 trial hours if it is a trial attorney.
How to Renew Contractor License in
Contractors in Georgia must renew their licenses every two years. The license renewal process can be completed online or by contacting the State Licensing Board via (478) 207-2440 and requesting a paper renewal application, which will be sent by mail. Note that contractors must complete any applicable required Continuing Education hours before they can renew their licenses. The fee for renewing a contractor’s license in Georgia is $100, which must be submitted with the renewal application before June 30th. Renewing your contractor’s license after June 30th attracts a penalty fee of $200. Contractors who fail to renew their license by December 31st will automatically lose their license.
Attorneys in Georgia must also pay a license fee to the Georgia State Bar by July 1 of every year to remain members of the bar. The Georgia State Bar usually sends an email 90 days before the date, reminding attorneys of the due fees and stating the amount to be paid. On receiving the email, Georgia attorneys may mark their license fee notices and pay the required fee online. Alternatively, they may mail a check for these fees to:
- State Bar of Georgia,
- PO Box 102054, Atlanta,
- GA 30368-2054
Note that attorneys that pay their license renewal fees via mail-in are required to include their Bar Numbers when sending the checks. Failure to pay the fee before August 1 attracts a late fee of $75 and attorneys that still fail to pay the dues by January 1 will have to pay an additional $100 penalty fee. If payment is not made by January 1, the Georgia State Bar will suspend the attorney’s license for five years and if the attorney makes no move to reinstate the license during the five-year period, the attorney will have to retake the state’s bar examination to be readmitted into the practice of law in Georgia.