Did you know? Contractors and home builders in New Hampshire are not required be licensed. Not only that, there is no single, industry-wide licensing program for contractors in New Hampshire, even though this is required in thirty other states. Contractor licensing was the subject of discussion on a recent episode of “The Exchange” on New Hampshire Public Radio.
The discussion panel included attorneys, legislative experts, and contractors, and it explored both sides of the coin: should NH contractors be licensed?
Many professions require you to have a license, based on the argument that licensing holds workers to a basic professional standard. This type of regulation makes sense in many industries, from massage therapy to food service. But when it comes to contracting, things can get tricky.
Pros & Cons of Contractor Licensing
Many contractors are divided on the issue of licensing. Home construction is an increasingly technical skill, and some contractors feel that licensing would give them the credibility they deserve, separating them from the fly-by-night builders who do shoddy work.
Oxland Builders founder Brad Sawler is licensed in Massachusetts. Massachusetts is one of just a few licensing states that require licensees to complete continuing education during each two-year renewal cycle. A variety of topics are covered, including code review, workplace safety, business practices/Workers’ Compensation, energy, and lead safe practices. Brad has found the classes to be very valuable. “They’ve contributed to my overall knowledge of the industry, which translates into better service for our customers,” he says.
With numerous state and federal building codes (NH, as a state, is currently guided by the 2009 International Residential Code), a basic form of licensing could ensure that contractors have an understanding of these requirements. On the other hand, some contractors have been at it for decades, and know their industry better than most. They argue that large-scale licensing does not guarantee experience or expertise, and is just another way for the government to regulate and confine the industry.
A lack of licensing could keep project costs lower, because, in a sense, anyone can be a “contractor.” But what does this say for the quality of their work? Does it open the potential for poor craftsmanship or ignorance of the code from unqualified individuals? Without licensing in New Hampshire, this happens more often than it should.
Licensing Brings Accountability
A fundamental argument for contractor licensing is accountability. Many other industries have a licensing structure in place, and while this doesn’t guarantee quality, it ensures and enforces a set of basic standards. In the construction industry, building codes are the primary standard contractors are held to. In states where licensing is required, builders have to demonstrate specific knowledge of elements such as energy code, structure, safety, and other aspects of construction. But on top of this, they need to pass background checks.
These basic standards, enforced by government licensing, represent a minimum accountability that rests solely on the contractor. A builder with a revoked license has likely violated an area of safe or reliable construction and has received legal action. In New Hampshire, there is no basic standard of reliability; unless you hire a quality contractor with a strong reputation, you have no way of knowing their qualifications.
This makes it particularly important to hire an established contracting company with experience and a reputable history. Tune in next time for a deeper look at licensing and New Hampshire contractors, and reach out to us in the meantime if you have any questions!