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What You Need to Know About a Contractor’s License Number

20 April 2015

When interviewing potential contractors and their references, a smart homeowner knows to ask whether or not a contractor is licensed.  Finding out that a contractor is licensed is a good step towards learning more about them, but the discussion should not end there.  Here’s what you need to know!

What a Contractor’s License Means: Contractor licensing laws vary from state to state.  In Minnesota companies, not individuals are licensed and each company must choose an employee, often an owner, who will serve as the “qualifying person” or license holder.  This individual is the one responsible for taking the mandatory test and completing continuing education requirements.

What a Contractor’s License Does Not Mean: To put things in perspective, just because someone holds a valid driver’s license does not make them a safe driver.  It simply means that at one point they passed their driver’s test and have not committed enough infractions to have their license revoked.  The same logic applies to a contractor’s license.  It simply notates that someone within the company you are working with has passed the exam and is keeping up with their continuing education credits.  It does not guarantee that the work they will perform is outstanding.  In fact, shoddy work performed by the contractor does not directly result in the loss of their license, as state licensing agencies are not tasked with the responsibility of consumer protection.

Continuing Education Courses: In order to keep their license current, contractors are oftentimes required to attend continuing education courses.  This allows them to stay up to date with new codes, ethical business practices, and safety requirements.  These courses benefit consumers through higher quality job performances, fewer customer complaints; less potential for liability and increased job site efficiency.

Contractors License Laws:  Before undertaking a construction project with the help of a contractor, it’s to your benefit to understand what licensing requirements must be met by a contractor, rather than simply taking their word for it.  States like Florida, Kansas, Louisiana, and Ohio do not require a state license for contractors.  Other states leave issuing of contractor licenses to individual counties and contractors must get a license for each county.  Still, others require licenses for only large-scale projects over a certain dollar amount.

How to Verify if a Contractor’s License is Legit:  In most states, a contractor’s license is a unique combo of letters and numbers that are specific to a contractor.  Here’s how to authenticate WI & MN contractor’s license numbers:

MN: https://secure.doli.state.mn.us/lookup2/licensing.aspx

WI: https://app.wi.gov/licensesearch