Kansas Contractor License Search
What You Should Know about Hiring a Contractor in Kansas
In Kansas, most trades are not regulated at the state level. However, over 57,000 active contractors are licensed locally in the state. Ensuring your preferred contractor is licensed is crucial and in your best interest because these contractors are typically insured and bonded. The Insurance and bond cover damages, work-related injuries, and incomplete works that may become an additional liability to you. Ensuring your contractor is licensed correctly will help avoid the following:
- Fraudulent contractors who may run away with your money
- Unethical contractors who will compromise on regulatory codes and standards to complete your project.
Besides verifying your contractor's license, you should also consider the following issues when hiring a contractor in Kansas:
- Who Is a Contractor in Kansas?
- How to Search for a Contractor's License in Kansas
- Penalty for Hiring a Contractor Without a License in Kansas
- How Much Does a Contractor Charge in Kansas?
- Tips for Hiring a Contractor in Kansas.
- Is Your Contractor Insured and Bonded as Required by Kansas Statutes?
- Top Contractor Scams in Kansas
- How to Report Fraudulent Kansas Contractors
Who Is a Contractor in Kansas?
A contractor is an individual or business offering services based on an oral or written agreement. In Kansas, these professionals are regulated at the city or county level, with each city or county having varying requirements a contractor must comply with. For example, in the capital city of Topeka, contractors are licensed and regulated by the city's Development Services Division (DSD). This Division issues more than ten license types. Still, contractors operating in the city can be broadly classified into two types:
- General Contractors: These contractors undertake construction, remodeling, demolition, and related services. They typically coordinate the process, primarily hiring specialty contractors to assist with specific tasks. General contractors in Topeka are further classified into:
- Class A - Standard General Building Contractor: These contractors are eligible to undertake any construction work, regardless of how many stories the building consists of or will consist of, or whether it is a residential or commercial building. However, unless they hold the relevant trade license, these contractors must subcontract specialized parts of the construction work to the appropriate subcontractor with the proper permit.
- Class B - Standard Building Contractor: These contractors can only work on buildings three stories or less.
- Class C - Standard Residential Building Contractor: These contractors can only work on residential buildings.
- Trade Contractors: These contractors are also called "specialty contractors" or "subcontractors"; they are professionals who offer specific construction services. They include electricians, plumbers, and mechanical contractors. However, while roofing contractors may be classified as trade contractors, they are regulated by the Kansas Attorney General's Office. They must register with this Office before operating in any city in Kansas.
How to Search for a Contractor's License in Kansas
Nearly 60,000 contractors operate across Kansas, with each city or county regulating the contractors in their jurisdiction. However, you can easily confirm if your prospective contractor is duly licensed by using the Uhire professional license search tool. Otherwise, you can check the search platform of the regulatory department in your city or county or contact this department. For example, in the capital city of Topeka, you can confirm your contractor's license on DSD's Licensed Contractors webpage.
Penalty for Hiring a Contractor Without a License in Kansas
Due to the municipality-level contractor regulation in Kansas, the penalties or lack of penalties for hiring an unlicensed contractor varies by city or county. The same goes for penalties for unlicensed contracting. For example, in Johnson County, operating as a contractor without the required licenses is punishable with a maximum fine of $500. However, the County's Department of Planning, Housing, and Community Development, which regulates contractors, may impose additional penalties. Each day of unlicensed work is a separate offense.
While this may be the case, it is in your best interest that your contractor is duly licensed. Hiring unlicensed contractors comes with several avoidable downsides, as you are likely to:
- Hire contractors with inadequate experience.
- Hire fraudulent contractors or fall victim to a scam.
- Work with contractors neither insured nor bonded, increasing your risk of financial liability if property damage or injury results from your project.
- Have your project stopped by the relevant regulatory department.
How Much Does a Contractor Charge in Kansas?
Specialty contractors in Kansas charge an average hourly rate between $14 and $75 for their services. These rates reflect labor charges alone and can get higher when other costs, such as permit and material costs, are added. Likewise, a contractor's area of specialization and the nature of your needed service influence the contractor's charge.
The table below provides average hourly rates for commonly requested specialty contractors in Kansas (note that factors like your location and the contractor's local reputation may also influence actual costs):
Note that a typical home improvement or construction will require the services of more than one specialty contractor. Hiring a general contractor to oversee the project and handle the necessary subcontracting is best for seamless coordination. While general contractors may charge for their services by the hour, they typically utilize other pricing styles, such as:
- Cost Plus: This pricing style entails estimating the project's cost in material, labor, and other considerations and then paying this cost to the contractor with an added fee. This way, the contractor undertakes the project from start to finish, coordinating materials procurement and subcontracting. The added fee is usually the contractor's professional fee and may be a percentage of the project's cost or an agreed amount.
- Per Square foot: With this pricing style, the contractor agrees with the project owner on what a square foot of the property will cost. The contractor's fee is then the agreed amount by square foot multiplied by the number of square feet the contractor worked on.
- Fixed Fee: Under this pricing style, as the name implies, the contractor and project owner consider all the project's peculiarities and agree on a fixed price.
On average, Kansas construction and home improvement projects cost around $105 per square foot. However, factors that typically determine the exact cost of a scheme include:
- The number of subcontractors necessary for the project.
- The type of project.
- The urgency of the project.
- Permit costs.
- The reputation and experience of the supervising contractor.
- Accessibility to the project's location.
- Material and labor considerations.
Tips for Hiring a Contractor in Kansas.
Your choice of contractor can make or break your project, as they are the professionals who oversee the process and do the construction work. As such, hiring a contractor is something to give utmost consideration and care. Below are tips to help in this regard:
- Ensure you compare estimates from different contractors before hiring.
- Verify the license of any contractor you are considering hiring. You can confirm this through the Uhire professional license search tool or from your local regulatory agency.
- Be wary of unsolicited contractors or those who try to pressure you into hiring them.
- Ensure you have a signed agreement with your preferred contractor.
- Avoid, as much as possible, cash payments. Use payment options that are good for recordkeeping, such as checks or cash transfers.
- Do not pay a substantial deposit before your contractor begins work.
- Conduct some background checks on your preferred contractor. Ask about their reputation. You can do this by requesting referrals from your contractor and checking them or looking at third-party consumer platforms like Better Business Bureau, Google Review, and Yelp.
- Ensure your preferred contractor is insured and bonded.
- Have a record of all the documents relating to the transaction.
Is Your Contractor Insured and Bonded as Required by Kansas Statutes?
The state law requires contractors operating in Kansas to maintain valid workers' compensation insurance for their employees. Other contractor insurance and bonding requirements are at the municipality level, varying by city or county. For example, contractors operating in Topeka must maintain valid general liability and workers' compensation insurance policies regardless of whether they work as general or trade contractors. Johnson County has similar rules for contractors operating within the county, as these contractors must hold valid general liability and workers' compensation insurance policies regardless of their license type.
Hiring insured and bonded contractors is necessary to ensure that your project is in competent hands. Insurance policies and bonds protect you financially, reducing your chances of spending out-of-pocket if your project is damaged or harmed or needs improvement. However, note that insurance and bonds operate differently. Insurance policies typically cover the costs of remedying an occurrence, especially property damage, bodily injury, or both. On the other hand, a bond ensures you are financially protected if your contractor delivers unsatisfactory service or fails to complete the service. In such instances, you can get money from the contractor's bond to complete the job to the agreed standards.
To confirm if your contractor is insured and bonded, request that they provide the relevant insurance or bond certificate and verify this document with the issuing company.
Top Contractor Scams in Kansas
Annually, Americans lose more than $13 million to home improvement scams. These scams are common in Kansas, and project owners should carefully consider who they hire for their projects. Putting your projects in the wrong hands may make you a victim of fraud and put your safety and your family at risk. These unscrupulous individuals and businesses use various scam methods, and it is helpful that you are aware of these methods so it is easier to notice and avoid them.
Some common tactics that fraudulent contractors use to scam Kansas homeowners include:
- Claiming they do not need to be licensed
- Door-to-door bids
- Baiting unsuspecting homeowners with unreasonably low estimates just to increase their fees later
- Reluctance to provide a written estimate or sign an agreement
- Insisting on cash payments
- Requesting substantial deposits, only to abscond with the money
- Exaggerating needed repairs
- Using pressure and fear tactics to force a project owner into hiring them
- Claiming to have leftover materials from a previous project
You can avoid these scams by taking the following actions before committing to contractors:
- Ensure any contractor you hire and the subcontractors that work on your project have valid licenses
- Refuse door-to-door or unsolicited bids
- Compare estimates from multiple contractors to understand the average cost for your project first.
- Get a written agreement with your contractor
- Request references from your contractor and check them
- Ask about your preferred contractor's reputation. You can check consumer platforms like Better Business Bureau or Google Review.
- Be wary of cash payments. Instead, utilize other payment methods that are easier to track and keep records of
- Do not pay a substantial amount for the project upfront
- Unless for obviously dangerous situations, get a second opinion on needed repairs before starting the repairs
- Avoid contractors who try to pressure you into hiring them
How to Report Fraudulent Kansas Contractors
You can file a report with the appropriate regulatory agency if you have complaints about your contractor's services or conduct or notice they violate relevant professional rules. Several agencies regulate contractors in Kansas, and the nature of your complaint determines which agency is best suited to address the complaint.
In any case, relevant regulatory agencies and the kind of complaints they address include
You can report contractors working without a license to the agency responsible for contractor licensing in your city or state. For example, the relevant agency is the Development Services Division in Topeka and the Department of Planning, Housing, and Community Development in Johnson County. These agencies also address complaints concerning city code or professional violations.
Kansas Attorney General's (AG's) Office.
The Kansas AG's Office handles consumer complaints, including complaints concerning a contractor's fraudulent practices, violation of consumer protection laws and directives, and related instances. You can submit a complaint to the AG's Office through its online consumer complaint platform. However, for project owners residing in Sedgwick, Wyandotte, or Johnson County or filing a complaint against a contractor operating in any of these counties, the appropriate agency to file such consumer complaints is the relevant county's District Attorney's Office.
Small Claims Court
Aggrieved project owners who have signed agreements with their contractors can also file a suit against them at their local small claims court if the contractor fails to perform as agreed. Small claims courts are informal, and attorneys do not need to represent parties. However, note that the maximum amount you can claim from most small claims courts in Kansas is $3,999 or less. Where the amount involved exceeds $3,999, the party filing the action must agree to forego the excess.
Better Business Bureau (BBB)
You can also report a contractor to the BBB office near you. The BBB encourages residents to do this, as it helps ensure other unsuspecting residents do not fall victim to unscrupulous contractors. Also, the BBB may take administrative action against the contractor, such as blocking the contractor from their platform.
The Police Department
When a contractor steals your property, assaults you, or commits any other crime during the project, you must report this contractor to the nearest police department. This is remarkably advisable if the contractor's actions are life-threatening.