Kentucky Contractor License Search

What You Should Know about Hiring a Contractor in Kentucky

More than 36,000 licensed contractors in Kentucky are available for hire at a moment's notice. Working with licensed contractors guarantees that your job will be done in line with relevant local codes and industry standards. Generally, licensed contractors carry insurance and bonds to cover possible damages, work-related injuries, and uncompleted work. Such coverage saves you from unplanned financial liabilities. Verifying your contractor's license will also keep you from becoming a victim of a fraudulent contractor.

Besides verifying your contractor's license, it is also essential to consider the following issues:

Who Is a Contractor in Kentucky?

A contractor is a professional or business that performs services based on an agreement that may be oral or written. Contractors in Kentucky are regulated at the municipality level. Essentially, contractor requirements and classifications differ by city or county. Using Louisville as an example, the Department of Construction Review (DCR) regulates contractors operating in the town and issues licenses to eligible applicants. Contractors in Louisville are also classified into two major classes, which are:

  • Class A: These are contractors eligible to undertake more than one project in a calendar year. Class A contractors are further classified into:
    • Residential: Contractors under this category can only handle residential projects, typically single- or two-family dwellings.
    • Commercial: These contractors can only undertake commercial projects, such as office buildings, condominiums, and similar structures.
    • Residential and Commercial: These contractors can undertake residential and commercial projects.
  • Class B: These contractors can undertake only one project in a calendar year, and they are further classified into:
    • Residential: Contractors classified under residential are limited to handling only residential projects.
    • Commercial: These are contractors with the license to undertake commercial projects.

This classification applies to both general and specialty contractors in the city.

On the other hand, in Bowling Green, the city's Contractor's Licensing Board (CLB) regulates contractors working in the city. The Board categorizes contractors into two main types, namely:

  • General Contractors: These are contractors involved in any general contract, building, remodeling, or construction management work. They also include professionals hiring two or more subcontractors for a project.
  • Specialty Contractors: Contractors classified under this category undertake specific construction jobs to enable a general contractor to complete a building or remodeling project. They are also regarded as "subcontractors".

Note that certain specialty contractors are regulated and licensed at the state level. They include electrical, plumbing, and HVAC contractors, and the state's Department of Housing, Buildings, and Construction (DHBC) regulates these contractors across 11 Divisions. These Divisions include the Electrical Division, which regulates electricians; the Division of Plumbing, which regulates plumbers; and the Division of Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning, which controls HVAC contractors.

How to Search for a Contractor's License in Kentucky

Kentucky has nearly 70,000 active contractors, but these contractors are regulated at the municipality level. You can verify the license of your preferred contractor through the Uhire professional license search tool. Also, you can utilize the relevant license verification page of the department regulating contractors in your city or county. For example, you can confirm the license of a Louisville-licensed contractor through the Louisville Metro Business Portal or a Bowling Green-licensed contractor through the Board's Search Active Contractors portal. For DHBC-licensed contractors, you can check the Division's License Search and Verification Page.

Penalty for Hiring a Contractor Without a License in Kentucky

Kentucky does not impose a penalty for hiring an unlicensed contractor. However, it is crucial to confirm from the relevant regulatory department in your city or county, as contractors in Kentucky are regulated at the municipality level. You should ensure that your preferred contractor is duly licensed, as there are several disadvantages to hiring an unlicensed contractor. These include:

  • Higher likelihood of falling victim to fraud
  • Hiring unqualified or poorly skilled professionals
  • Working with professionals ineligible to pull necessary permits
  • Higher chance of hiring an uninsured professional, as this is typically the case with unlicensed contractors

However, operating as a contractor in most Kentucky cities is unlawful without a license. For example, in Louisville, unlicensed contracting attracts different penalties, including a maximum fine of $250 for each violation. Each day of contracting without a license constitutes a separate offense.

How Much Does a Contractor Charge in Kentucky?

Determining how much your prospective contractor charges for their services is crucial to planning your construction or home improvement project, especially regarding budgeting. Special contractors in Kentucky typically charge hourly rates between $10 and $75 for their services. However, the exact rates for your project are determined by many factors, including the type of service you need and associated costs. Associated costs include the cost of materials, permits, and inspections.

The table below provides average hourly rates for commonly requested specialty contractors in Kentucky (note that factors like your location and the contractor's local reputation may also influence actual costs):

$22 - $30
$25 - $30
HVACR Technicians
$20 - $30
$20 - $25
$15 - $25
$15 - $25
Flooring Contractors
$15 - $25
$20 - $35
$10 - $20
$25 - $65
Interior Designers
$25 - $35
Excavation Contractors
$20 - $30
Concrete Contractors
$15 - $25
$40 - $75
Appliance Repair Technicians
$15 - $25
$15 - $25
Cleaning Services
$10 - $25
$15 - $20

These fees are independent of a general contractor's charges. General contractors are equally crucial to a construction or home improvement project, as they supervise subcontractors and are responsible for the project till completion, amongst other things. Different considerations also influence how much these contractors charge, including their preferred pricing style. Popular pricing types general contractors use include:

  • Cost-Plus: As the name suggests, with this pricing style, the contractor gets paid the estimated cost of the project plus an extra fee. The additional price is usually based on the cost of the project. Sometimes, it is a percentage of the cost. This extra fee also serves as the contractor's professional fee, while the project's cost is used to commence and complete the project.
  • Per Square Foot: With this pricing style, there is a fixed cost for each square foot the contractor works on. At the end of the project, the contractor's charges are defined by multiplying the total number of square feet worked on with this fixed cost.
  • Fixed Fee: With the fixed fee pricing style, the contractor and the project owner consider the estimated cost of the project, including miscellaneous expenses, and agree on a pegged amount. This pricing style is best for projects with a short or medium duration and clear timelines.

Considering this, Kentucky's average cost of a new construction or home improvement project is between $80 and $180 per square foot. Other factors that may influence this total cost include:

  • The project's timeline
  • The nature of the project
  • The number of subcontractors working on the project
  • Location of the project site
  • The project owner's preferences
  • Associated costs

Tips for Hiring a Contractor in Kentucky

The contractors handling your project are crucial to the project's success and whether you receive a satisfactory service. While you should consider a contractor's skill, expertise, and reputation, it is equally important that this contractor can legally perform your needed service, pull permits, and not defraud you. In searching for the right contractor, you should consider the following tips:

  • Confirm your preferred contractor has the requisite license to work in your city. You can utilize the Uhire professional license search tool or check with the local regulatory department.
  • Compare estimates from at least three contractors before hiring any. That gives you an idea of how much to budget and helps spot fraudulent contractors or excessive charges.
  • Request references from your preferred contractor and check them
  • Make inquiries on your preferred contractor's reputation, such as if they engage in unethical conduct, stick to timelines, and do a good job
  • In addition to the above, check your preferred contractor's rating and review on customer platforms like Better Business Bureau, Google Review, or Yelp
  • As much as possible, avoid unsolicited contractors and bids
  • Get a written offer or signed agreement with your contractor. Ensure you understand the terms of any such agreement before signing
  • Ensure your contractor is insured and bonded

Is Your Contractor Insured and Bonded as Required by Kentucky Statutes?

Each city or county in Kentucky regulates the contractors operating within their jurisdiction. As such, contractor insurance and bond requirements vary. For example, in Louisville, contractors must maintain a commercial general liability insurance policy, with an insurance amount of at least $250,000 per person per occurrence and $500,000 aggregate. Also, only specific contractors, such as wrecking contractors, are required to maintain a bond. Likewise, in Bowling Green, contractors must have general liability insurance of at least $100,000 per occurrence and workers' compensation insurance. However, at the state level, contractors with one or more employees must maintain workers' compensation insurance.

Ensuring your contractor is insured and bonded is essential, as this ensures you do not incur personal financial expenses if someone suffers injury or property damage due to your project. That is possible if your contractor has general liability insurance. Likewise, a contractor bond guarantees that your contractor will complete your project by agreed standards. Should your contractor fail to do so, you can recover part or all of your money from the contractor bond or request a refund to complete the project. This way, you are suspended, especially when your contractor absconds.

As such, ensure your contractor provides proof of insurance and bonding, such as valid insurance and bond certificates, and take steps to verify these certificates with the relevant company. Also, ensure the insurance policy and bond amount sufficiently cover your project.

Top Contractor Scams in Kentucky

Each year, home improvement scams rank in the top five complaints the Kentucky Attorney General's Office receives. Homeowners who fall victim to these scams often lose thousands of dollars. These scams are unfamiliar to Kentuckians, as Americans lose nearly $14 million annually to home improvement scammers.

Some common tactics that fraudulent contractors use to scam Kentucky homeowners include:

  • Door-to-door solicitation
  • Pressuring you to hire them by using false urgency or scare tactics
  • Requesting for upfront or substantial payment before starting the project
  • Claiming to have leftover materials from a project that they can offer you at a discount
  • Reluctance to provide a written estimate or sign an agreement
  • Accepts cash-only payments
  • Working from out-of-state or not having a local office

You can avoid these scams by taking the following actions before committing to contractors:

  • Get and compare estimates from several contractors before hiring a contractor
  • Be wary of hiring door-to-door contractors
  • Ask your contractor to provide references from previous customers and check these references
  • Never make an on-the-spot hire
  • Confirm your preferred contractor's reputation. You can ask around or check platforms like Better Business Bureau.
  • Verify your contractor's license before hiring them. You can check the Uhire professional license search tool to do this.
  • Refrain from making substantial deposits or paying for the project upfront. Ideally, agree to payment milestones.
  • Make payments with traceable methods like money transfers and checks. If you do pay with cash, ensure to get a signed receipt.
  • Have a written agreement with your contractor. Ensure to read and understand the terms before signing.
  • Keep records relevant to the project
  • Ensure your contractor is insured and bonded

How to Report Fraudulent Kentucky Contractors

Various agencies oversee contractors working in Kentucky, and your complaint's nature typically determines the agency you are to file the complaint with. Below are some of the principal agencies and the types of complaints they address:

Licensing Agency

The city or county departments responsible for licensing contractors receive complaints regarding unlicensed activity, city codes and professional requirements violations, and related matters. Each department has varying processes for receiving these complaints. For example, homeowners in Louisville can file their protests by reaching the Department of Construction Review at (502) 574-3321.

Kentucky Attorney General's (AG's) Office

The Consumer Protection Division of the Kentucky AG's Office receives complaints concerning consumer rights violations and unfair trade practices. Interested persons may file complaints with this Division by submitting a completed online Consumer Complaint and Mediation Form. They may also reach the Division at (502) 696-5389 or 888-432-9257 (select option #3) for assistance or inquiries or read through the Division's Consumer Complaints Resources.

Small Claims Court

Small Claims Courts in Kentucky are informal legal forums where residents can settle disputes over money or property. An attorney need not represent parties in small claims court. However, before approaching this court, it is crucial to have sufficient evidence, including the signed agreement with your contractor and records relating to the project. Also, note that the maximum amount you may recover in this court is $2,500. You agree to waive the balance if the money exceeds $2,500.

Better Business Bureau (BBB)

The local BBB office closest to you also receives complaints regarding contractors operating in that city or county. Though the BBB can only take limited action against reported contractors if any, such complaints assist other homeowners in the city with making better hiring choices.

The Police Department

Complaints involving illegal activity or threats to life or property are best addressed to your local police department first.

Cities in Kentucky