By JULIE E. GREENE
To protect their homes and wallets, homeowners need to take some simple steps before hiring a contractor.
Homeowners who hire contractors that do shoddy work, damage property or don't do the job can receive up to $10,000 in compensation from the state of Maryland if the contractor has a state license, said Marco Merrick, spokesman for the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.
It is illegal to do home improvements without a license, Merrick said.
Homeowners should ask for a contractor's license number and call the Maryland Home Improvement Commission at 1-410-333-6309 to ensure the license is current and check the contractor's complaint record, he said.
"This is your home. This is probably the biggest investment you make," Merrick said.
In addition to checking with the commission, get an estimate and call the contractor's references, he said. It is not uncommon for unscrupulous contractors to use bogus phone numbers and addresses, Merrick said.