Steps to validating a general contractor in Minnesota

I get sad every time I get asked to go to a home because somebody has paid somebody to do a project and it was not finished or the craftsmanship was very sub-par. The #1 thing I would recommend to avoid getting into this situation is:

Only Hire a Licensed General Contractor

Sadly there seem to be some shady people out there that offer construction services but are not licensed. Some do their best but bite off more than they can chew while others simply take the money and run. To be licensed means you have passed a test and carry liability insurance, which is not that big of a deal.  But what is a big deal is that you have also paid into the Contractor Recovery Fund with the state and are personally responsible to the homeowner and the state to fix issues with your work.

The largest challenge I see is that in MN we have a pretty convoluted way to assess if somebody is a Licensed General Contractor.  Here is a quick 3 step process:

1) Do they have a license number on their business card?  
If they don't they are not a licensed general contractor (we are required to put it on our business card and any other marketing information such as fliers or websites. Maybe they are a licensed general contractor and didn't follow the rules, but who would want to hire somebody that skirts the rules)

2) Does it start with BC?  
In MN it is easy to get a "number" that you can put on a business card that could imply you are a licensed builder.  But for construction only the ones that start with BC mean anything.  For example, a number that starts with XB means "this person registered themselves as exempt and doesn't pay into the contractor recovery fund" or numbers that start with IR means "this is a tradesperson" 

3) Check to make sure it is still valid with the state.
Enter the BC number on this website and make sure it is valid with the state. . Believe it or not, some people have been caught using BC with fake numbers behind it.

I really wish everybody would just be nice and keep their commitments out of a matter of personal values and none of this would be necessary. But if you find yourself getting bamboozled by a shady General Contractor (somebody with a valid BC#) simply call the Department of Labor and Industry and ask to file a claim with the contractor recovery fund (I'm sure telling your shady General Contractor you know this is an option is enough to get their attention).

Kim Studham

Small Business Owner, Mom, Wife, Licensed General Contractor, and dog owner.