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City of Hamilton Offers Tips to Avoid Hiring Illegal Home Improvement Contractors

HAMILTON, ON – March 8, 2016 – With spring around the corner, many Hamilton residents may be considering renovations or repairs to their home. The City of Hamilton reminds residents that home improvement contractors must possess a trade license to operate, according to Business Licensing By-Law 07-170.

Licensing protects homeowners by ensuring that the business is legitimate, has passed a police criminal check and holds third-party liability insurance.

“Now, more than ever, homeowners are shopping around for the best price. In addition to price, residents should always check to make sure an appropriate license is in place,” says City of Hamilton Chief Building Official, Ed VanderWindt.

Businesses requiring a trade license include building repair contractors such as roofers, carpenters, bricklayers, concrete workers, window and door installers, siding contractors and foundation waterproofing contractors; drain contractors; plumbers; heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) contractors; and fire sprinkler installers.

The City offers the following tips on what to do to avoid hiring an unscrupulous contractor or builder:

  • Ensure the contractor has a valid trade licence – check the City’s updated licensed contractor listing; alternately, call the Building Services Division at 905-546-2720 to ask if a contractor holds a licence
  • Do not get pressured into signing anything
  • Ask for a fully itemized estimate and ensure the details are written into a contract
  • Get at least three other quotes if asked to make a down payment of more than 5% to 15% of the total contract price
  • Never give a cash deposit or pay for work until it is done
  • Determine if the job requires a Building Permit. It is the home owner’s responsibility to get a Building Permit before construction. When applying for a permit, the licence number of the contractor doing the work must be provided

The City usually only investigates contractors if a complaint is made. If the City of Hamilton receives a complaint of anyone operating without a valid license, the City will document and gather evidence. If warranted, staff will work with police and the legal system to enforce municipal by-laws and the Ontario Building Code.

Building Inspectors can also carry out random spot checks to ensure a contractor is operating with a proper license.

VanderWindt adds: “We encourage residents who have any concerns to contact us. They assist with our enforcement efforts and are an important part of the process of protecting the public’s safety as well as their pocketbooks.”

For more information, visit the City of Hamilton Building Services Division online at