What Are Alabama Contractors?
The State of Alabama has over 8,000 licensed contractors. These contractors are licensed and regulated by the Alabama Licensing Board for General Contractors. This board issues two classifications of contractor licenses, which are major licenses and specialty licenses. Major licenses can be further grouped into general contractor licenses and subcontractor licenses. Per Section 34-8-1 of the Alabama Code, general contractor licenses are issued to contractors that deal personally with property owners and are responsible for overseeing a construction project, while subcontractor licenses are issued to contractors that are hired by a general contractor to carry out a specific construction task. These licenses must be obtained by contractors that want to work on any construction project worth more than $50,000 or a swimming pool construction worth more than $5,000.
On the other hand, specialty licenses are issued in special skills, trades, or crafts like carpentry, metal, concrete, or masonry. Note that contractors are not the only professionals that require licensing to operate in Alabama. For instance, land surveyors and engineers must get a license from the Alabama Board of Licensure for Professional Engineers and Land Surveyors, while cosmetologists must obtain one from the Alabama Board of Cosmetology. Attorneys must also be licensed by the Alabama State Bar to practice law within the state. As of May 2021, Alabama has 18,711 licensed attorneys.
Tips for Hiring a Contractor
Home or property improvement is one of the most important investments anyone can make and it is crucial that you choose the right contractor when undertaking a construction project. However, choosing from the thousands of contractors available in Alabama can be a difficult choice to make. As such, you should consider using the tips listed below to help you make the right decision::
- Have a clear picture of your project requirements and the outcome
- Ask a friend or family member who has had a similar job done for recommendations
- Get at least three bids from three different contractors
- Ask the contractors for a portfolio of their work
- Request for references and contact these references
- Check the contractor’s website and social media pages for client reviews. Also visit websites like Yelp, Better Business Bureau, and Google My Business for third-party reviews.
- Ask for a work plan detailing the project start date, estimated completion date, and all other details about your project
- Find out if the contractor is licensed
- Verify the validity of the contractor’s license online or by calling the Alabama Home Builders Licensure Board at (800) 304-0853
- Find out if the contractor has a liability and workers compensation insurance policy
- After choosing a contractor, make sure to get any agreements made with the contractor in writing
- Insist on a contract that contains the name and contact details of the contractor, a description of the project, a breakdown of the cost of materials and labor, and the work schedule.
- Do not sign any contract that is vague and ambiguous. Contact an attorney to review the contract
- Pay the contractor only about 10 to 20 percent of the total amount at the start of the project
- Do not pay the full amount of the project before its completion
Note that after the start of a project, you have the right to terminate a contract at any time if the contractor fails to carry out the work with due diligence, is declared bankrupt, refuses to pay subcontractors and suppliers, or consistently disregards the state’s contractor licensing law.
How to Search A Contractor's License in Alabama?
Homeowners who hire an unlicensed contractor in Alabama may not have any recourse if the project is incomplete or does not meet the local building code. Also, such homeowners will be liable for the medical expenses to treat the unlicensed contractor should they get injured on their property. In Alabama, general contractors who bid for residential projects above $10,000 in both material and labor cost must hold a state license from the Alabama Licensing Board for General Contractors (ALBGC) or the Home Builders Licensure Board (HBLB), if registered after 1992.
To check a contractor's license in Alabama, visit the ALBGC License Roster page or the HBLB Licensee Search page and query the database by license number, name, city, or specialty of the contractor. If licensed to practice in Alabama, the search result returns details on the contractor including business name, address, zip code, phone number, bid limit, various specialties and license expiration date.
Unlicensed contractors or home builders caught in Alabama are deemed guilty of a Class A misdemeanor. To report a builder you suspect is unlicensed in Alabama, the homeowner is required to complete an unlicensed builder information form and return it to the Board.
How Much Does a Contractor Charge in
The labor charge for a contractor’s services in Alabama varies depending on the size and type of the project. For instance, a general contractor will charge more for a house construction than for a patio installation. Regardless, general contractors typically charge an hourly rate of between $50 – $100 while subcontractors charge around $40 – $50 per hour. Some of the common hourly rates for different types of contractors in Alabama include:
When hiring a contractor, it is also important to retain the services of a real estate attorney particularly before signing a contract. It is not unheard of for unethical contractors to take advantage of homeowners who sign without representation. If you decide on retaining the services of a real estate attorney in Alabama, you can expect to pay an hourly rate of $45 to $100.
What Are Home Improvement
Scams in Alabama?
As a homeowner, the need to hire a home improvement contractor can arise at any point. However, it is important to be cautious when doing this, to avoid falling victim to a home improvement scam. These scams can include things such as leaving a job unfinished or undone after payment, intentionally doing sloppy work which would require more repair, later on, claiming to be a licensed contractor, misrepresenting oneself to have the homeowner sign a contract, overstating damage, and other issues.
One of the first steps you can take to avoid being a victim of a home improvement scam is to ask contractors for a copy of their license. All licensed contractors in Alabama have a credit-card-sized license that contains information like their names, addresses, file numbers, and the current year. After seeing the license, you should still verify that information by contacting the Home Builder Licensure Board.
Another important step to take is asking the contractor if your job requires a permit. Most major home repairs require a permit from the city or county. Any contractor that tries to convince you that there is no need to get a permit is very likely an unlicensed contractor that will cut corners as much as possible. In addition to these steps, ask contractors for references and contact these references. Ensure to find out if the contractor is insured, and avoid paying more than 10 to 20 percent of the total amount of money up-front.
If you believe that you may have been scammed by a contractor, you can report to the Alabama Attorney General's Consumer Hotline, the State Licensing Board for General Contractors, or the Home Builders Association of Alabama.
What are Common Home Improvement Scams in Alabama?
There are various methods that devious contractors can use to scam homeowners in Alabama. A lot of these scams are targeted at elderly residents who are more likely to be trusting and in need of assistance with home repairs. Some of the schemes that home improvement scammers can use to trick their victims include:
- Left-Over Supplies: Some deceptive contractors visit unsuspecting homeowners and make them a great offer. The contractor explains that they recently completed another job and have some left-over materials, and they will have to just throw the supplies away if they do not use them. They offer to do some work for the homeowner using the surplus materials at a much lower price. But what the homeowners do not know is that the contractor either overbilled a former customer or failed to complete the work. And in most cases, the surplus materials are also substandard and can cause damages and even injuries if used. This scam is commonly used by driveway sealers who tell the homeowner that since the sealant cannot be stored once it is mixed, it would just go to waste if they do not use it.
- Pressure signing: Scammers make the homeowner a time-limited offer, pressuring the owner to sign a contract immediately and get a discount by doing so. They do not give the homeowner time to review the contract, contact references, or validate their licenses.
- Up-Front Payment: Home improvement scammers may ask the homeowner for a large up-front payment or the total fee before the work even begins. Some of these scammers just take the money and run without doing any part of the work. Others do substandard work or claim that there is some undiscovered problem in the house that needs instant attention and raises the cost significantly. Alabama has no down payment laws that limit the amount of money a contractor can request as an up-front payment. However, it is advisable to never pay more than 20% of the total cost of the project as an up-front payment.
In February 2021, the Alabama Attorney General’s Office issued a statement warning residents of Jefferson County to beware of home improvement and repair scams in the wake of a devastating tornado that resulted in massive property damage. This office had earlier announced the conviction of a contractor that had fraudulently obtained a contractor license with forged documents.
You can avoid being a victim to these home improvement scams by taking the following steps when hiring a contractor:
- Be wary of contractors who claim to have surplus material leftover from another job, or who make limited-time offers
- Get bids from multiple contractors in writing, and compare those bids before agreeing to any work
- Insist on getting references from the contractors
- Verify the contractor’s licensing status by contacting the Home Builder Licensure Board
- Do not make any payment in cash
- Do not agree to get required building permits yourself
- Avoid paying more than 10 to 20 percent of the job’s total amount as a down payment
What are Disaster Scams in Alabama?
Disaster scammers in Alabama usually target homeowners struggling to recover from extreme weather. Scammers go to affected communities and offer cheap, quick fixes for battered houses or speedy removal of debris, for payment upfront. Knowing this, it is important to be cautious when hiring any home repair contractor in the wake of any disasters. To make sure that you do not fall victim to scammers, you should do the following:
- Avoid hiring a contractor immediately after a disaster
- Be wary of contractors offering their services from door to door
- Ask relatives, friends, neighbors, insurance agents, co-workers, or claims adjusters for recommendations
- Get detailed estimates from at least three different contractors
- Ask for references. Get their names and addresses and call them
- Deal with only licensed and insured contractors
- Insist on having all the agreements in writing
- Read any contracts thoroughly before signing
- Avoid paying a lot of money up-front
In September 2020, the Alabama Home Builders Licensure Board, in conjunction with the state’s Attorney General’s Office, cautioned residents to beware of scams and price gouging when cleaning up, repairing, or rebuilding their homes after a storm. The board reminded Alabamans of the price gouging law that prohibits businesses, including contractors from charging more than 25% of the average price charged in the same location in the last 30 days.
What are Common Legal
Legal work scams in Alabama are deceptive attorney-related schemes or tricks used to cheat unsuspecting individuals out of their money. These scams can take various forms, some of which include:
- Known Legal Impersonator Scams: Scammers may use the name of a legitimate Alabama law firm to con their victims. They contact their targets using the name of a reputable attorney or firm, referencing the actual address of the attorney or firm they are impersonating. However, they include their own email address and phone number. Some may even go as far as creating a fake website using the law firm’s information but the scammer’s contact information. By impersonating legitimate attorneys, these scammers try to boost their credibility with their targets.
- Fake Lawsuit: Scammers call or email people informing them of a lawsuit against them. They tell their targets that they are the opposing party’s attorney and that the court has ruled in their favor and so it is time for the target to pay up. They usually demand the target’s personal information and a settlement amount.
You should take the following steps to avoid being a victim of a legal work scam in Alabama:
- Be wary of any person that contacts you claiming to be an attorney, especially if the person threatens you or your loved ones, claims that it is an emergency, or demands quick payment.
- Ask for recommendations on attorneys from a friend, colleague, or family member. You can also get referrals from the Alabama State Bar through its lawyer referral service.
- Ensure that the attorney is licensed to practice in the State of Alabama by using the Alabama State Bar's find a member tool.
- If a calling attorney gives you a name and phone number, check with the Alabama State Bar to see if the number the person called with matches the name provided on the site. The State Bar requires attorneys in Alabama to ensure their contact information on the site is up to date.
- Ask the attorney for references and ensure to contact them.
- Visit third-party review websites like Better Business Bureau and Google Review to find unbiased reviews on the attorney.
- Avoid paying more than 20% of the total cost of the legal work upfront.
- Do not make payments to the attorney in cash.
- Report any unauthorized practice of law to the Alabama State Bar.
How Long Does it Take to Get a License in
The length of time it takes to get a contractor’s license is not constant and varies depending on the type of license sought, the date of the exams, and the schedule of the Alabama Licensing Board for General Contractors.
Individuals applying for an Alabama prime (general) contractor license must submit an Application for Prime to Practice General Contracting form to the state’s licensing board at least 30 days before its scheduled quarterly board meeting. The applicants whose applications are reviewed and accepted by the board will then be required to sit for the Alabama Business and Law exam, as well as any exams related to the specialty classifications that they applied for. On the other hand, individuals that wish to apply for a subcontractor’s license are not required to sit for the Alabama Business and Law exam. However, they must submit a Subcontractor Application Form and provide references from either three licensed general contractors, architects, or engineers. Because of this, the processing time for obtaining a subcontractor’s license is generally shorter than that of obtaining a prime (general) contractor’s license.
Both general contractor and subcontractor applications should be submitted via mail to:
- Alabama Licensing Board for General Contractors
- Office of the Board
- 2525 Fairlane Drive
- Montgomery, AL 36116
Note that the Alabama Licensing Board for General Contractors will not consider any incomplete contractor license applications. Each applicant is required to supply all the necessary information, and where applicable, ensure that their references respond to the board on time. Any incomplete application will be left pending by the board. If it is not completed within a year, the pending application will be considered non-compliant, and the applicant would have to start the whole application process afresh.
How to Maintain Your License in Alabama
Contractor licenses in Alabama are valid for one year during which the contractor is expected to remain in right standing with the law. The Alabama Licensing Board for General Contractors may revoke the contractor license of any contractor who is found guilty of fraud, misconduct, gross negligence, or incompetence in the conduct of business. Additionally, licensed contractors that wish to change their method of operation are statutorily required to apply for a new license. A change in method of operation usually involves changing from an individual contractor to a partnership or corporation and vice versa. However, contractors that do this may be allowed to keep their original license number upon request. Finally, the board also allows licensed contractors to amend their license classifications as long they meet all the requirements. Queries concerning license maintenance in Alabama can be directed to the state’s licensing board at (334) 272-5030.
Attorneys in Alabama are equally encouraged by the State Bar to keep their information on the Bar’s website up to date. They can send in changes to their names, addresses, or other information in the member record to the Attorney Licensing Office using the member login feature. They are also required to earn a minimum of 12.0 total Mandatory Continuing Legal Education credits, as well as 1.0 credit in legal ethics every year.
How to Renew Contractor License in
All licensed contractors in Alabama are required to renew their licenses every year. To renew a general contractor or subcontractor license, licensees must submit an application for renewal as well as a renewal fee within 45 days of the renewal month. This renewal month is based on the first letter of the company name. For instance, for companies beginning with I, J, K, or L, the renewal month is March.
The board allows contractors to renew an expired license within one year after the expiration date. Any contractor that fails to renew the license within this period will be required to reapply for a contractor license, as well as retake all the necessary examinations. A contractor who does not intend to renew the license but does not want to go through the reapplication process, later on, may apply for an inactive license. However, the contractor must make the application at least 30 days before the expiration of the active license.
This inactive license allows contractors to keep their current license number but prohibits them from working on a project that costs $50,000 or more. Such contractors must also renew their inactive licenses every year on the assigned date for a fee of $200. Failure to do so will require that the contractor reapplies to the board for a new active license.
Prime contractors can renew their license by submitting the Prime Contractors License Renewal application form, their current financial statement, and a renewal fee of $200. The board may grant a ninety-day extension to general contractors who fail to provide the financial statement within the designated renewal month, but who have submitted the renewal form and fee. If they do not submit the financial information within the ninety-day period, they will be required to pay a penalty fee of $50 when making the submission. Subcontractors also have to submit a Subcontractors Renewal Form application form and a renewal fee of $100 to renew their license. Alabama contractors may mail their respective application forms and fees to:
- Alabama Licensing Board for General Contractors
- Office of the Board
- 2525 Fairlane Drive
- Montgomery, AL 36116
Attorneys in Alabama are also required to renew their licenses by purchasing either a Special Membership or Occupational License annually to be deemed an active member of the Bar in good standing. These memberships and licenses expire on September 30th of every year. Failure to renew before October 31st of that year attracts a penalty fee of $48.75. Occupational licenses are required by attorneys that are engaged in active legal practice while special memberships are required by attorneys that are not engaged in active legal practice but want to remain as members of the Bar in good standing. Legal practitioners such as U.S. attorneys, district attorneys, attorneys general, and judges that do not require an occupational license to practice law actively by virtue of their positions are also eligible for special memberships. The fee for renewing an occupational license in Alabama is $325 while that for renewing a special membership is $162.50.