Frequently Asked Questions
WHAT IS THE CONTRACTORS' REGISTRATION LAW?
It is called the Contractors' Registration Law. It was passed in 1989 by the Rhode Island General Assembly and is Chapter 5-65 in the R.I. General Laws.
WHAT DOES THE CONTRACTORS' REGISTRATION LAW REQUIRE?
Every contractor, remodeler, and most subcontractors who are in the business of building or repairing residential or commercial structures, must register. Anyone who demolishes or moves a residential/ commercial structure must also register.
IS REGISTRATION THE SAME AS LICENSING?
No. This is not a licensing law. It is a law to simply register contractors so that claims filed against them can be heard and settled. Licensing usually involves pre-qualification and testing before a license can be issued. There are no tests or pre-qualification required by the Contractors' Registration Law.
WHAT DOES REGISTRATION INVOLVE?
To register, a contractor, remodeler, or subcontractor must file certain information with the Contractors' Registration and Licensing Board such as name and address. Other information items that must be provided are: driver's license or picture ID, workers' compensation account number, unemployment insurance account number, state withholding tax number, federal employee identification number, proof of insurance, out of state service form and affidavit. If out of state contractor must have agent of service, attorney in Rhode Island.
WHAT IF MY BUSINESS IS SET UP AS A PARTNERSHIP, JOINT VENTURE, OR A CORPORATION?
If the contractor is a partnership or joint venture, the names and address of each partner must be listed in addition to the information required of individuals and sole proprietors. If the contractor is a corporation, the names and addresses of all corporation officers must be provided, as well as other subsidiaries. Each business entity must be registered. Out of state contractors are required to provide an R.I. attorney as agent of service.
WHAT IF I HAVE NO EMPLOYEES?
Only contractors who have employees must provide information such as an unemployment insurance account number or a workers' compensation insurance account number.
DOES THE LAW SAY ANYTHING ABOUT INSURANCE?
Yes. The law requires that every registered individual, sole proprietor, partnership, or corporation have certain minimum insurance coverage. That minimum is ($500,000) five hundred thousand dollars combined single limit, bodily injury and property damage.
WHERE DO I REGISTER?
Registration must be made with the Contractors' Registration and Licensing Board. The Contractors' Board will accept registration and hear claims against contractors, remodelers, and subcontractors only on residential property. The Board is located at 560 Jefferson Blvd, Suite 204, Warwick, RI 02886. The telephone number is (401) 921-1590, Fax Numbers are (401) 889-5533 and (401) 889-5535.
WHO IS ON THE CONTRACTORS' BOARD?
Fifteen members appointed by the Governor, consisting of residential and commercial contractors, architect, home inspectors, commercial roofers, building official and member of the public.
IS THERE A REGISTRATION FEE?
The registration fee is currently $200.00
DO I REGISTER ONLY ONCE?
No. You must renew every two years and pay the $200.00 fee commercial or residential; $400.00 for commercial roofing. A late fee of $25.00 will be imposed after expiration.
DO I HAVE TO TAKE A TEST IN ORDER TO REGISTER?
No test of any kind is required.
WILL I RECEIVE A REGISTRATION CERTIFICATE?
Yes. The Contractors' Registration Board will issue a pocket-card certificate of registration.
WHO ADMINISTERS THIS LAW?
The law will be administered by the Executive Director of the Contractor's Registration and Licensing Board.
DOES THE CONTRACTORS' BOARD HAVE ANY STAFF?
Yes. The Board has a full time Executive Director who will be a member of the State's classified service as well as investigators, hearing officer, and other staff. Board represented by attorney Generals Office.
WHAT HAPPENS IF I DON'T REGISTER?
Contractors, remodelers, and subcontractors who do not have a valid registration certificate will not be able to bid on work or obtain a building permit in any of Rhode Island's 39 cities or towns. Before obtaining a building permit, contractors and remodelers will be required to submit their registration number which will be noted on the permit.
WHAT OTHER PROBLEMS WILL RESULT IF I DON'T REGISTER?
A contractor, remodeler, or subcontractor who does not have a valid registration will not be able to file a lien, or file a law suit for compensation for work done on a structure. A fine up to $5,000.00 for 1st offence and up to $10,000 for 2nd may be imposed for non-compliance.
An employee is any person permitted to work by an employer who receives wages, and has appropriate taxes withheld. If a 1099 form is filed, one is considered a subcontractor.
DO SUBCONTRACTORS HAVE TO REGISTER?
Most subcontractors must register the same as contractors and remodelers. For example, the law specifically says that carpenters, framers, siding installers, foundation installers, drywall installers, plasterers, insulation installers, ceramic tile installers, floor covering installers, swimming pool installers, masons, and general masonry erectors must register.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF A SUBCONTRACTOR DOES NOT REGISTER?
Only subcontractors who have valid registration certificates can be hired by registered contractors and remodelers. In addition, contractors and remodelers must maintain lists of subcontractors who work for them. A fine up to $5,000.00 may also be imposed on a non-registered subcontractor, as well as the contractor who hired them.
DO PLUMBERS AND ELECTRICIANS HAVE TO REGISTER?
No. Plumbers and electricians are already licensed by another Rhode Island agency. They do not have to file for a Contractors' Registration unless they work outside of the purview of their license. They are required to be insured pursuant to 5-65-7.
WHAT ABOUT PIPEFITTERS?
No. The same exception applies to pipefitters because they are also licensed by another Rhode Island agency.
WHAT ABOUT SUPPLIERS?
No. Persons or businesses who furnish materials, supplies, equipment, etc. and who do not fabricate these supplies or materials in the work of a contractor do not have to register, however if registered they can use the boards dispute resolution process.
WHAT ABOUT DEVELOPERS?
If anyone arranges to have a structure built, per definition they are considered to be a contractor and must be registered.
(See Section of Law on Exemptions: (5-65-2)).
DOES A COMMERCIAL CONTRACTOR HAVE TO REGISTER?
Yes. The registration law applies to all contractors, and remodelers. If a contractor builds commercial structures exclusively or develops land exclusively, they have to be registered.
IF I AM A CONTRACTOR IN ANY OTHER STATE. DO I HAVE TO REGISTER IN RHODE ISLAND?
Yes. If you build, remodel, or work as a subcontractor in Rhode Island, you must register.
DOES THE CONTRACTORS' BOARD HAVE ANY DISCIPLINARY POWERS?
The Board can refuse to issue or can suspend or revoke the registration of the contractor, remodeler, or subcontractor; additionally it can impose fines. See RIGL 5-65-10 for types if disciplinary action that may be taken.
WHAT ARE THE GROUNDS FOR SUSPENSION OR REVOCATION OF A CONTRACTOR'S REGISTRATION?
A contractor's registration can be suspended or revoked if one engages in dishonest or a fraudulent conduct with the public or if knowingly and consistently builds structures in violation of state building codes. Failure to maintain required insurances can result in suspension or revocation of registration. Such action is usually the result of an administrative hearing.
IS THERE A PENALTY FOR OPERATING WITHOUT A REGISTRATION AND FAILURE TO COMPLY WITH A FINAL ORDER OF THE BOARD?
Yes. Any person who violates a final order of the Board, or fails to register as a contractor as stipulated, and upon proper written notification, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and shall, on conviction thereof, be imprisoned for a term not exceeding one (1) year, or fined not more than five thousand dollars ($5,000) for 1st offense, and ($10,000.00) for subsequential offenses. If three (3) or more final orders are issued in a 24 month period may be prosecuted as a felony charge.
WHAT KIND OF CLAIMS FROM THE PUBLIC, OR FROM THE CONSUMERS WILL BE HEARD BY THE CONTRACTORS' BOARD?
The Board will hear claims of negligent work, improper work, contract disputes, and claims of breach of contract. Only claims pertaining to residential properties.
DOES THE LAW PROVIDE FOR A VICTIM FUND?
No. There is no fund to compensate a consumer who has been defrauded by a contractor, remodeler, or subcontractor registered under this; however, the board criminally pursues compliance of final orders in district court with the attorney general.
IF THE CONTRACTORS' REGISTRATION and LICENSING BOARD RULES IN FAVOR OF A CONSUMER AGAINST A CONTRACTOR, HOW DOES THE CONSUMER GET HIS OR HER MONEY?
If a monetary decision is issued by the board the final order when property served will be criminally prosecuted.
ARE THERE ANY TIME LIMITS ON CONSUMER CLAIMS?
Yes. The owner of a new structure must file a claim with the Board no later than one (1) year after the closing date of the structure. A claim involving an existing structure must be filed no later than one (1) year after the remodeling work was substantially completed. That time frame may be extended if the contractor was notified in writing during the first year, of the problem.
CAN SUPPLIERS, EMPLOYEES, OR SUBCONTRACTORS FILE CLAIMS AGAINST A CONTRACTOR? FOR EXAMPLE, IF A CONTRACTOR OWES A SUPPLIER OR SUBCONTRACTOR MONEY?
IS THERE AN APPEAL PROCESS AFTER THE ADMINISTRATIVE HEARING?
Yes. In the case of a claim from a supplier, the claim must be filed no later than one (1) year after the registered contractor, remodeler, or subcontractor incurred the debt. Suppliers and subcontractors must be registered in order to file a statement of claim.
CAN A CONTRACTOR FILE A CLAIM AGAINST A SUBCONTRACTOR?
Yes. A contractor can file a claim against a subcontractor; however, such a claim must be filed no later than one (1) year after the subcontractor has ceased to work on the structure, and must be registered.
CAN THE CONTRACTORS' BOARD IMPOSE A FINE?
For a first time violation of the Contractors' Registration and Licensing Law or of the Board's rules and regulations, the Board can impose a fine up to $5,000.00. The Board can impose fines up to $10,000.00 for a second violation. Fines also maybe imposed up to the value of the contract at an administration hearing.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE OTHER POWERS OF THE CONTRACTORS' BOARD?
The Board has the power to issue rules and regulations. It also has subpoena power and can investigate the activities of anyone who is engaged in the building and construction industry, or arranging to construct. The Board can conduct a local investigation with the assistance of the local building inspector.
WHO IS CONSIDERED AN EMPLOYEE?
An employee is any person permitted to work by an employer who receives wages, and has taxes withheld. If a 1099 is filed, one is considered a subcontractor. See Section of Law on Definitions: (5-65-1-2(i))
ARE THERE ANY EXCEPTIONS TO THE LAW?
Someone who builds or repairs residential structures that he owns and occupies does not have to register. However, any owner who builds a house with the intent of selling it when it is completed or doesn’t own it for at least one year must be registered. Employees of a contractor or of a remodeler and subcontractor do not have to register. Manufacturers of mobile homes also do not have to register.
IS THERE A COST TO FILE A CLAIM?
Yes. A charge of $25.00 will be imposed at the time a statement of claim is filed, as a processing fee. Payment should be in the form of a check or money order and is not refundable if the claim is processed; however if matter goes to a hearing the hearing officer order fee reimbursement.
Yes. After a proposed order is issued if the parties attend a hearing and written exceptions are received in a timely manner (within 20 days), with the appropriate fee of $20.00, the (15) member Board will make a decision and issue a final order.