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Consumer Protection

Sometimes disagreements occur between consumers and contractors. When this happens, the Contractors' Registration and Licensing Board may be able to help with its Dispute Resolution Process. View an overview of the process.

Homeowners can file claims with the Contractors' Registration and Licensing Board if they think the contractor has done negligent work, breached a contract, allowed liens to be filed, or otherwise caused damage. Generally speaking, the claim must be filed within a year of completion or two years if the contractor was notified in writing of the problem durring the first year. If a consumer has a contract with a contractor containing an arbitration clause, and a claim has been submitted for arbitration, then it shall not be subject to the claims provisions of the Contractors' Registration Law, or if the matter has been submitted to court. If a favorable judgment is received from court or arbitation action against the contractors registration can be processed for an administrative hearing if it is filed within 30 days of the judgement or decision.

If a claim is filed, the Contractors' Registration and Licensing Board can send an investigator to the site to look at the claim items and attempt to resolve the dispute. If the dispute continues, the Contractors' Registration and Licensing Board offers a hearing and appeal process. If the contractor refuses to cooperate or refuses to pay any amounts ordered, the Board shall take appropriate action as allowed by law. The Contractors' Board can help consumers if the contractor is registered, or required to be registered.

Hearing Information
Waiver of Jury Trial Form

  • Both parties, claimant and respondent, are asked to sign the waiver of jury trial form at an Administrative hearing. This form is a waiver, in this forum, of jury trial and basically means you will accept the decision of the hearing officer in regard to the claim filed with the Board;
  • If both parties sign the form, then the hearing officer can render a monetary decision, order the respondent back to complete the job, as long as the respondent is registered, assess fines or take action on the respondent’s registration;
  • If neither party signs the waiver the matter is usually dismissed so parties can go forward in court and request a jury trial; however, the case could still be heard and actions taken on respondents registration and fines if multiple offenses against respondent or the offense is a serious issue;
  • If the claimant signs the jury waiver, but the respondent doesn’t, as long as the claimant is willing to have the respondent back to complete the work, the matter can go forward and respondent can be ordered to complete work. Fines can be assessed and action on the respondent’s registration can take place;
  • If the claimant doesn’t sign, but respondent does, matter may be better suited for court, but could proceed with action against the respondent’s registration and assessment of fines;
  • If the claimant fails to attend the hearing, after notice and opportunity the claim is dismissed;
  • If the respondent fails to attend the hearing after notice and opportunity, the Board will conduct a default hearing based upon the claimant’s representation of a prima facie case. A default hearing allows the Board to administer a monetary award, assess fines, order work to be performed as well as take action on respondent's registration;
  • Detailed estimates are required to be provided at the hearing if a monetary judgment is being requested by the claimant;
  • Return of deposits are not considered monetary judgments when no work has been conducted.

Administrative Hearing

  • Consider consulting an attorney prior to an Administrative hearing when seeking considerable restitution;
  • The Board is a Neutral 3rd party;
  • The burden is on the claimant to prove the case at a hearing and must provide estimates for repairs or completion of work with a breakdown of items; Evidence must be submitted inclusive of the Board’s investigative report, pictures and any other documentation. Evidence needs to be factual in nature not “he said or she said”;
  • Only items on the claim form will be heard, no additional items unless both parties agree;
  • Witnesses may be presented with their testimony;
  • Sign off at hearing of receiving hearing information sheet;
  • Copy of investigative report will be provided to both parties prior to the hearing;
  • Written decision provided if and when the matter goes to a hearing.

Information beneficial to consumers when entering into a contract with contractor:

    • Make sure contract is in writing.
    • Make sure contractor is registered with the Contractors’ Registration and Licensing Board.
    • Does contract contain the contractor’s registration number?
    • What are the terms of cancellation? If signed outside of the place of business the contract must have a three day cancellation clause.
    • Does the contract have a Lien Release clause?
    • What is the time frame? Provide start and finish date. There may be a reward or penalty clause which should be included if time is of the essence.
    • Is there an arbitration clause in the contract? Who is paying for that service? Read the fine print and make sure you know the terms.
    • What are the payment terms? Never put too much money up front, and never pay the balance until the job has been completed, pursuant to the terms of the contract.
    • Allowances: Make sure you have a clear understanding that money allocated is sufficient and it is inclusive of labor cost.
    • Extras: Make sure they are in writing and make sure they are clearly defined.
    • Employees: Who is doing the work? Does contractor have workers compensation?
    • Subcontractors:  Are they registered or licensed? Who is doing the work? Do they have employees? Does subcontractor have workers compensation?
    • Insurance: Ask for a copy of the certificate of insurance and ask to be the certificate holder.
    • Quality: Specify and be specific in the contract exactly what you want; For example, name brands, colors, etc.
    • Value: You really do get what you pay for; cheaper is usually a lesser quality.
    • Check to see if the contractor is a member of building trade associations.
    • Communication: Make sure it is clear, concise and you have a mutual understanding.
    • Warranty: Specifications should be provided when purchasing specific products.
    • Permits: Are they included in contract, or are you taking care of them? This is for your safety.     
    • Reputation: character and the personality of contractor may be a consideration before signing a contract. You should be happy working with your contractor.


The Contractors’ Registration and Licensing Board was created by the State Legislature to help reduce problems and resolve disputes in Rhode Island’s residential construction industry.
Most residential construction projects are completed without problems. Some projects run into minor problems and a few have major problems. In our efforts to resolve these problems, the Board has learned that most of them could have been prevented. Here are some suggestions to help make your construction experience more pleasant.

Choosing Your Contractor:

The old saying “you get what you pay for” certainly applies to home construction. Select your contractor carefully:

  • Solicit two or three bids.
  • Do not automatically accept the lowest bid. Be wary of “special deals”,” demonstration projects”, or offers from “a friend of a friend”. A higher bid may be worth the price for better materials, workmanship, or reliability.
  • Ask the contractor for references. Call the references to see if they were satisfied with the contractor’s work, and how the contractor responded to questions and/or complaints.
  • Give special consideration to contactors who are members of a professional builders’ association.     A member of a professional association is one indication that a contractor recognizes the responsibilities of being a professional.

    Choose a professional.
  • Is the contractor registered?
  • How long has the contractor been registered?
  • Does the contractor have any open claims or violations?
  • Is the contractors insurance up to date?
  • Does contractor have any employees, if so; does he have workmen’s compensation insurance?
Make sure the contractor is registered with the State of Rhode Island Contractors’ Registration and Licensing Board. If the contractor is registered with the board, the contractor has liability and property damage insurance. You can check a contractors’ registration by visiting the Board on our Web site: http://www.crb.ri.gov/ or call the board at 401-921-1590. When you call, ask the following questions:       
  • Is the contractor registered?
  • How long has the contractor been registered?
  • Does the contractor have any open claims or violations?
  • Is the contractors insurance up to date?
  • Does contractor have any employees, if so; does he have workmen’s compensation insurance?

You can get help from the Board resolving construction-related disputes and problems for up to one year after work is done, or two years if during the first year you notified contractor of the problem in writing.

Signing the Contract:

A written, signed contract protects both parties, you and the contractor.

Put all agreements in writing.
Avoid oral contracts.
Contracts over $1,000 must be in writing.

The contract should include the following:

  • A clause stating the job will not commence until a permit (if required) has been obtained.
  • A list of materials to be used, such as; quality, quantity, weight, color, size or brand name. 
  • Starting date and completion date.
  • Total price, scheduled disbursements, and whether there is any cancellation penalty.
  • Everything you feel is important to the job, such as specific materials, complete clean-up and removal of debris, and any special requests.
  • A notice of possible mechanic’s lien (contractors’, sub-contractors and material suppliers).
  • A 3 day right of cancellation, only if the contract is signed out of contractors’ place of business.
  • A list of what the contractor will and will not do.
  • Ask for a list of sub-contractors being used on the project, if any.

Working with a Contractor:
Think your project through from start to finish. Insist that you approve the completed plans before work begins. When you see the plans, study them carefully to make sure they illustrate your project accurately. Ask Questions! 
If changes from original plans occur during construction, put them in writing as amendments to the contract, including any changes in cost. These changes are called “change orders” and should be signed by both you and contractor, and should be clearly understood.
Before accepting the job as complete, walk through it with contractor listing any defects needing correction. Never sign for completion until all work called for in the contract has been properly completed; also ask if all or any required inspections have been done by the building official’s department.

Obtaining Building Permits:
Construction of new homes and most home improvements require building permits from the city or town building department. Get the building permits. Usually, contractors will obtain the permits because they know what permits are required. Ultimately, the owner is responsible for making sure the permits are obtained. Your contract should specify who is going to obtain the permits.
Building permits ensure that the plans and specifications meet the State Building Codes. Inspections during construction and after construction is completed ensure that the the minimum applicable code requirements are adhered too, and protect you.

Seeking Assistance:
Whenever you are unsure about what action to take, seek assistance. Contact your lender, local professional builders association, local building department, the Better Business Bureau, or your attorney.
If problems persist, contact the Contractors’ Registration and Licensing Board, 560 Jefferson Blvd, Suite 204, Warwick, RI 02886, visit our Web site: http://www.crb.ri.gov/, or call 401-921-1590