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Department of Consumer Affairs
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Home Improvement Contractors

Homeowners affected by Hurricane Sandy can get help at DisasterAssistance.gov 

Check if a home improvement contractor or salesperson is licensed
NOTE: You will be redirected to a new web page. Scroll to the blue Consumers box to select Search for a DCA Licensee. 

See a sample home improvement contract 

Read tips when hiring a home improvement contractor

Watch video [English   Español]

Read the Home Improvement Consumer Guide 

Get information about required Buildings permits (English and Español) 

File a complaint against a home improvement contractor 

 

DCA is expediting licensing procedures. Read City Hall press release

 Download Home Improvement Contractor license application packet 

Download Home Improvement Salesperson license application packet 

Apply for Home Improvement Contractor license online 

A home improvement contract must comply with the Laws and Rules of the City of New York. Download a Model Home Improvement Estimate and Final Contract 

Download Template for List of Home Improvement Contractor Clients
*Note: Contractors who signed a consent order must use the template for recordkeeping. 

Learn about green energy training courses and seminars at CUNY's Center for Sustainable Energy (English and Español) 

Learn ways to make seniors’ homes “age-friendly” 

Who needs a home improvement contractor license?
By law, any person or business that solicits, canvasses, sells, performs, or obtains home improvement work that costs more than $200 must get a license from DCA to operate legally in New York City. Home improvement work can be any type of remodeling or repair including: awnings, basements, central heating/air conditioning, cabinet installation, central vacuum cleaning system, communications systems, driveways, fences, garages, patios, porches, roofing, sidewalks, storm windows, swimming pools, and terraces. Landscaping is also considered home improvement, with proper planting and installation of lawn sprinklers as examples of common work.

A license provides benefits for contractors, allowing them to pay into DCA’s Home Improvement Contractor Trust Fund and, therefore, saving the expense of obtaining a bond. In addition, licensed contractors have greater recourse to defend themselves from false claims or when a client refuses to pay when the job is done.

Why should I hire a licensed home improvement contractor?
Licensed contractors must undergo a criminal history check, pass an examination on their knowledge of the law and contracts, and contribute $200 to DCA's Trust Fund at the time of application and each time they renew or post a bond. DCA's Trust Fund reimburses homeowners who hired a licensed contractor who subsequently damaged their home and went out of business or left town.

Although a license does not ensure competence, requirements for contractors to operate legally provide protection for consumers.

What does DCA do when it discovers unlicensed home improvement activity?
DCA vigorously enforces City rules that protect homeowners stuck with unfinished, shoddy work by home improvement contractors. One of the most common homeowner complaints involves contractors working without a license.

When DCA discovers an unlicensed home improvement business, the agency takes possession of contractors' vehicles. Contractors must pay a fine, resolve any outstanding complaints, and agree to get licensed before they can retrieve their vehicles.

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  • Always use a licensed home improvement contractor and salesperson.
    Check if your home improvement contractor and/or home improvement salesperson is licensed by calling 311 or visiting Search for a Licensee
    NOTE: You will be redirected to a new web page. Scroll to the blue Consumers box to select Search for a DCA Licensee. Persons soliciting or performing home improvement work in New York City costing more than $200 must be licensed by DCA.
     
  • Get references.
    Call 311 to check a contractor’s complaint history with DCA and check with at least three reputable references before hiring a contractor.  Also check with surrounding areas including Suffolk, Nassau and Westchester counties for complaints:
    Nassau County Office of Consumer Affairs
    Suffolk County Office of Consumer Affairs
    Westchester County Department of Consumer Protection
    New York State Consumer Protection Board  
     
  • Know your contract rights.
    By law, homeowners have the right to cancel any contract within three days, including contracts for home repair and/or improvements. Always check the contract, especially for a cancellation notice. 
     
  • Get a written estimate.
    One of the best ways to calculate the cost of your home improvement work is to get estimates from a minimum of three contractors.  Under the Home-Improvement Business Law, a home improvement contractor must provide a written estimate upon request.  If a contractor charges for supplying a written estimate, you must be told the fee before an estimate is prepared. 
     
  • Use DCA’s home improvement model contract.
    Don’t start work or make payments without a written contract that clearly indicates all of the specifics of the project. DCA’s model contract is an easy-to-use template that covers the breadth of a home improvement project, from materials and equipment to prices, payments and work schedules. 
     
  • Never pay cash.
    Never pay for repairs or improvements without a contract and never pay in cash. Pay no more than a quarter of the total amount upfront, up to a maximum $15,000, to get the work started. Then continue with ‘progress’ payments as work continues so payments are tied to specific work progress, with final payment due when all the work is completed to your satisfaction.  Be sure to keep track of all paperwork and payments. 
     
  • Don’t finance improvements or repairs through your contractor.
    It is illegal for contractors or salespeople to arrange or offer to arrange home improvement loans for you. If they attempt to do this, file a complaint immediately with DCA.  If financing is needed for repairs or improvements, investigate reliable and legitimate options on your own at your bank or credit union of choice.  

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