A new state law outlines a registration platform for consumers to find certified contractors to work on their homes. The law was signed last year, but Attorney General Charity Clark and Secretary of State Sarah Copeland Hanzas just announced the implementation of the registry.

The Secretary of State’s Office of Professional Regulation in conjunction with the Attorney General’s Office say this new registration platform will help both contractors and consumers. Using a “light touch” model, it establishes an interactive map with contact information of numerous builders to make it easier for consumers to find licensed professionals.

Every year, the Attorney General’s Office sees home improvement fraud on the list of the top 10 complaints, and last year it was the second most common complaint, according to Clark. She adds in 2021, the office received 144 complaints, amounting to nearly $1 million lost.

That’s why Clark and Copeland Hanzas say the implementation of a state-wide registry can help mitigate these issues.

“I know that we have great hardworking residential contractors here in Vermont, and contractor registration puts in place consumer protection measures that will protect both the homeowner and the contractor,” says Copeland Hanzas.

Clark says her office saw reports of unsatisfactory service, improper installation, failure to do the work, and criminal home improvement fraud, just in the last year.

Representative R. Scott Campbell, (D) Caledonia-3, worked in construction for most of his life and explains the problems he used to see on the construction landscape.

“The problem was the lack of professional standards among builders. Some, whether through lack of knowledge or cost cutting pressure, do not always perform work as well as they should, and the true professionals sometimes wind up having to compete with the non-professionals and lose contracts to them,” says Campbell.

“What we’re doing is recognizing that certification is an acknowledgement of one’s level of mastery in building,” says Guy Payne, the Executive Director of Brattleboro’s Sustainable Energy Outreach Network.

The registry is geared toward builders on projects estimated at over $10,000, and there’s a registration fee of $75 for an individual and $200 for a business.

Clark says the law will allow consumers to see if a contractor is on good standing.

“What we’re going to have are consumers that are better educated and contractors that will have a model contract they can follow, and a way to register and show consumers that they are complying with the state law,” says Clark.

Copeland Hanzas calls the guidelines a light touch registration method. “If a contractor comes in and registers, they just need to show proof of insurance, show that they are in good standing,” she says.

The Secretary of State encourages all kinds of builders and contractors to register. Clark adds the law created a new position in the AG’s Office, the “Residential Contractor Specialist,” who will help with mediations between contractor and consumer. The law will require registration by April 2024.