Georgia Contractor License Search
What You Should Know about Hiring a Contractor in Georgia
There are approximately 40,000 contractors with active licenses in Georgia. However, you cannot just hire anyone claiming to be a contractor in the state. Before hiring any contractor in Georgia, you should verify criteria like appropriate licensing, experience, insurance coverage, competitive pricing, and a solid local reputation. Doing this assures you that your project will be in the hands of skilled professionals capable of delivering a satisfactory service and helps you avoid the following situations:
- Financial and legal liabilities in the event of work-related accidents
- Unsafe work practices and code violations resulting from your contractors being unfamiliar with relevant industry standards and regulations
- Fraudulent contractors absconding with your money
Contracting in Georgia is primarily regulated at the state level. So, when hiring contractors in the Peach State, you can make an informed decision by considering the following key points:
- Who Is a Contractor in Georgia?
- How to Search for a Contractor's License in Georgia
- Penalty for Hiring a Contractor Without a License in Georgia
- How Much Does a Contractor Charge in Georgia?
- Tips for Hiring a Contractor in Georgia
- Is Your Contractor Insured and Bonded as Required by Georgia Statutes?
- Top Home Improvement Scams in Georgia
- How to Report Fraudulent Georgia Contractors
Who Is a Contractor in Georgia?
Georgia contractors are individuals or companies that offer services (per written or oral contracts) to interested parties in exchange for compensation. These services are primarily associated with building and construction activities but may also extend to other forms of home and real property improvement. Georgia contractors are licensed and regulated by the Licensing Division of the Georgia Secretary of State's Office and are typically grouped into two main categories:
- Residential and General Contractors: contractors in this category typically manage building and construction projects. They are responsible for coordinating and supervising subcontractors, materials suppliers, and laborers; they may also personally perform construction work. However, they are not authorized to perform electrical, HVAC, or plumbing work unless they hold the required licenses. Residential and general contractors are further sub-categorized into four classes based on their authorized scope of services:
- General Contractor: these contractors can bid for any type of building and construction project, whether residential, commercial, or industrial. They can also perform construction work on these projects (excluding electrical, HVAC, or plumbing).
- General Contractor Limited Tier: these contractors' authorized scope of services is limited to projects worth $500,000 or less.
- Residential-Basic Contractor: these contractors' authorized scope of services is limited to detached one and two-family residences and one-family townhouses that are not more than three stories in height.
- Residential-Light Commercial Contractor: these contractors can perform the same type of work as residential-basic contractors and can also work on multi-family and multi-use light commercial buildings and structures.
- Specialty Contractors: contractors in this category perform specific building and construction work, typically requiring special skills and training. Examples of specialty contractors include electricians, HVACR technicians, carpenters, plumbers, masons, fence contractors, and painters. There are typically two types of specialty contractors: those hired directly by home and project owners (usually for one-time-only jobs) and those hired by residential and general contractors to contribute their services as part of a larger project. In the latter case, the specialty contractor is known as a "subcontractor."
How to Search for a Contractor's License in Georgia
Contractors in Georgia typically have to be licensed by the Secretary of State's Licensing Division to offer their services in the state. While this agency may make exemptions for residential and general contractors providing services worth less than $2,500 and certain specialty contractors working on behalf of these contractors, it is always best to engage a licensed contractor for your project.
You can use the Uhire Professional License Search tool or the Licensing Division's Lookup/Verification platform to confirm that your chosen contractor holds a valid state-issued license.
Penalty for Hiring a Contractor Without a License in Georgia
There are no statutory penalties for hiring unlicensed contractors in Georgia. However, knowingly engaging an unlicensed contractor (or failing to confirm your contractor's license status before hiring) has several disadvantages that can cost you dearly:
- Unlicensed contractors often lack adequate bond and insurance coverage, making you financially and legally responsible for any work-related accidents, injuries, or property damage.
- Unlicensed contractors are very likely inexperienced and unqualified to provide your required services, and hiring them increases your likelihood of getting subpar and unsatisfactory services.
- Unlicensed contractors cannot obtain permits from local building departments and often disregard relevant codes and regulations. This jeopardizes your safety, may result in administrative sanctions for code violations, and could even adversely impact your property's value.
Notice that Georgia contractors who offer their services without holding an appropriate state-issued license are considered guilty of committing a misdemeanor offense, punishable by fines of up to $1,000, jail time of up to six months, and any other disciplinary action deemed necessary by the state's Licensing Division.
How Much Does a Contractor Charge in Georgia?
Specialty contractors in Georgia charge average hourly rates ranging from $55 - $120 for their services; factors like the scope and labor intensity of your required services influence the actual cost of hiring these contractors.
The table below showcases average hourly rates for frequently requested subcontractors in Georgia (note that actual rates may vary based on location and the contractor's local reputation):
A typical building and construction project in Georgia will require the expertise of multiple specialty contractors, as well as materials suppliers and laborers. Getting a general contractor (or residential contractor for home renovation projects) to manage the project is a practical option that saves you the time and stress of dealing with these specialty contractors, materials suppliers, and laborers individually. General contractors typically charge a fee of 10 - 20 percent of the project's total cost for their services. This fee can be calculated using either of two methods:
- Lump Sum Pricing: In this method, the general contractor agrees to complete the project for a fixed fee. This method is suitable for projects with well-defined scopes and timelines.
- Cost Plus Pricing: In this approach, the general contractor charges for the actual work performed on the project plus a separate, pre-determined percentage for their services. This method is commonly used for larger projects with uncertain timelines. However, it is advisable to negotiate a maximum price cap if this pricing method will be used for your project, as this ensures you stay within budget.
While the average cost for most building and construction projects in Georgia typically ranges from $100 - $250 per square foot, actual costs depend on factors like the following:
- Your location
- The project's nature, scope, and complexity
- The cost of required permits and construction materials
- Site conditions and accessibility
- The expertise and local reputation of the involved contractors
- Contractor fees, labor costs, and other related expenses
Tips for Hiring a Contractor in Georgia
Building and construction projects can be quite expensive; even relatively small tasks like replacing faulty fixtures in your home can cost you a few hundred dollars. Therefore, whatever the scale or scope of your project, hiring a contractor who can balance affordability and quality service delivery is crucial. Here are a few tips to help you do just this:
- Get a clear idea of your project's scope and the types of contractors needed to execute it.
- Get and compare cost estimates for the project from several contractors.
- Ask your preferred contractor for licensing proof and verify it.
- Always request and check references before committing to a contractor.
- Confirm the contractor's insurance and bond coverage.
- Insist on a written contract for the project that includes a description of the work to be done, start and completion dates, its total cost, a payment schedule, and any promises or guarantees the contractor makes towards the project. Review this contract carefully before signing it.
- Do not pay for the project upfront and limit advance payments to 10 – 25 percent of the project's total cost.
- Make sure that the project is completed per the terms of your contract before making the final payment. You should also request an affidavit of completion from the contractor and lien waivers from all involved subcontractors.
- Keep all project-related paperwork.
Is Your Contractor Insured and Bonded as Required by Georgia Statutes?
Verifying your contractor's insurance and bond coverage before committing to them is of the utmost importance; this coverage protects you financially and legally if bodily injuries, accidents, and other unforeseen incidents occur during or as a direct result of your project. While insurance and bonds are often used interchangeably, they offer distinct types of coverage. Insurance safeguards the project owner and the contractor, preventing out-of-pocket expenses related to accidents, property damage, or contractor errors. On the other hand, bonds shield project owners from financial losses resulting from the contractor's failure to fulfill contractual obligations.
To this end, contractors in Georgia must meet the following financial standards set by the state's Licensing Division before they can legally offer their services to interested Georgians:
- Contractors with a general contractor license must have a minimum net worth of $150,000, while those with general contractor limited tier, residential-basic, and residential-light commercial contractor licenses must have a minimum net worth of $25,000.
- Contractors with three or more employees must carry workers' compensation insurance.
- Contractors with a general contractor, general contractor limited tier, and residential-light commercial contractor license must carry general liability insurance of at least $500,000, while those with a residential-basic contractor's license must have general liability insurance of at least $300,000
Confirm that your intended contractor has complied with these requirements before hiring; you should also ensure that their liability insurance can adequately cover the scope of your project.
You can get more information on Georgia contractors' mandatory financial obligations by contacting the Licensing Division at (404) 424-9966 or online.
Top Home Improvement Scams in Georgia
Home improvement scams are an unfortunate but prevalent occurrence across Georgia; these scams are regularly listed amongst the top ten complaints reported to the state's Consumer Protection Division. Some warning signs that you may be dealing with a contractor looking to scam you include the following:
- Door-to-door solicitations for home repairs
- High-pressure sales tactics
- Unbelievably low bids
- Insistence on cash payment upfront
- Hesitance to provide references, proof of licensing, insurance, or a written contract
To avoid falling victim to a home improvement scam, take these precautions when hiring contractors:
- Avoid door-to-door contractors altogether.
- Obtain cost estimates from at least three contractors to compare.
- Confirm your preferred contractor's license status and ensure they have proper insurance and bonding.
- Be wary of contractors who cannot provide verifiable local references.
- Insist on getting a written contract before any work starts and read this contract carefully before signing.
- Avoid making large upfront payments or paying the full project's cost in advance.
- Use traceable payment methods instead of cash, gift cards, or cryptocurrency.
- Withhold the final payment until the project is completed to your satisfaction.
How to Report Fraudulent Georgia Contractors
You can take action against dishonest and fraudulent Georgia contractors and seek remedies for any harm they may have caused you by reporting these contractors to any of the following agencies, depending on the nature of the problem:
The Licensing Division of the Georgia Secretary of State's Office
For matters involving licensed contractors, you can submit a complaint to the state's Licensing Division for necessary investigation and disciplinary action against these contractors. Notice that this agency does not have jurisdiction over billing or fee disputes.
The Georgia Attorney General's Office
Matters involving billing or fee disputes, scams, and deceptive business practices can be reported to the Georgia Department of Law / Attorney General's Office by filing a complaint with its Consumer Protection Division online. These complaints can also be filed by downloading and submitting a pdf complaint form to the office via fax to (404) 651-9018 or mail to:Georgia Department of Law
Consumer Protection Division
2 Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive SE
Atlanta, GA 30334-9077
If you are unsatisfied with the outcome of your complaint filed with the state's Licensing Division or Attorney General's Office, you can pursue further action by filing a small claims case against the contractor with your local Magistrate Court. These courts offer a quick and inexpensive process for resolving monetary disputes of up to $15,000. Filing fees for small claims cases vary by location and typically range from $45 - $55.
Note that you should always seek advice from a qualified attorney before taking legal action.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB)
Your local BBB chapter is a valuable resource for dealing with fraudulent contractors. This organization can assist you in seeking redress and help prevent other homeowners in your area from falling victim to home improvement scams by alerting them to fraudulent contractors.
Local Law Enforcement Agencies
In addition to the agencies mentioned above, you should report threats, theft, and other criminal activities by contractors to your local police department or sheriff's office.