What Are Mississippi Contractors?
The Mississippi State Board of Contractors is the authority that is responsible for the licensing and regulation of the state’s construction industry. This board currently oversees over 10,000 licensed contractors across multiple license classifications that include carpentry, masonry, plumbing, welding, HVAC, and refrigeration. Regardless of these various classifications, Mississippi contractor licenses can be broadly divided into two types, and all contractors and subcontractors in the state are required to obtain an appropriate license before they perform work on certain projects. The types of Mississippi contractor licenses and the projects that they are required for are:
- Commercial licenses: these licenses are required for commercial jobs that cost more than $50,000, including the installation of equipment, and jobs that involve the construction, reconstruction, repair, or maintenance of fire protection systems on either public or private projects that cost more than $5,000 and $10,000 respectively.
- Residential licenses: these licenses are required for new residential construction jobs that cost more than $50,000 and residential remodeling or residential roofing jobs that cost more than $10,000.
Note that although a state-level license is not required for residential HVAC, electrical, and plumbing work that cost less than $10,000, counties, cities, and municipalities in the state typically have local licensing or permit requirements for contractors that wish to perform these jobs.
Similar to contractors in the construction industry, professionals in other industries are also licensed and regulated by different authorities in Mississippi. These include professionals like real estate brokers and salespersons, who are licensed and regulated by the Mississippi Real Estate Commission, architects, who are licensed and regulated by the Mississippi State Board of Architecture, and attorneys, who are licensed and regulated by the Mississippi Bar. As of July 2020, the Mississippi Bar had a membership of 8,983 active attorneys and 2,153 inactive attorneys.
Tips for Hiring a Contractor
It is estimated that approximately $400 billion is spent on residential renovations and repairs annually in the United States. Considering the amount of money involved in home improvement projects, it is important to make sure that any contractor you employ to handle these projects performs an acceptable job. To do this in Mississippi, you need to take the following steps:
- Properly plan your project. Have a clear idea of the job that needs to be done and the types of contractors that can perform this job
- Get and compare two to three estimates from different contractors. This comparison should include the cost and quality of materials and the total cost of the project. You should also make sure that these estimates include details like the types of materials that will be used for the job, an expected timeline for the completion of the job, and a timetable for payments
- Make sure that the contractor is properly licensed by verifying the contractor’s license status online. If your project involves HVAC, electrical, or plumbing work that costs less than $10,000, then you should also contact your local government building department to find out if the contractor meets any applicable local requirements
- Ask the contractor for at least three verifiable references, contact these references, and find out whether they were satisfied with the work done by the contractor
- Insist on a written contract for the project. This contract should include a detailed description of the work that is to be done, the types of materials or equipment that will be used or installed, a timeline for the work, and a payment schedule. Make sure that you understand the terms of the contract before signing it and insist that any changes in these terms should be noted in writing. It is advisable to hire an attorney to help you review the contract and point out any discrepancies that you may not notice
- Keep down payments before the work begins as minimal as possible. It is advisable to never let down payments exceed 10% - 25% of the total cost of the project
- Make payments as work is completed per the payment schedule included in your contract. Never pay for any part of the work that has not been completed, and do not make cash payments. It is also advisable to ask for a receipt for each payment that you make
- Regularly check in on the progress of the work and make sure that any required permits are properly displayed while the work is ongoing
- Make sure that you are satisfied with the completed work before making any final payments and ensure that any liens have been duly released
- Keep all relevant paperwork related to the project. This should include the contract, any written changes made to this contract, photos of the project in progress, receipts, bills, invoices, and all other forms of correspondence with your contractor
The Mississippi State Board of Contractors provides a pre-screening checklist that homeowners can use to ensure that they adhere to some of these aforementioned tips for hiring contractors in the state.
How to Search A Contractor's License in Mississippi?
The Mississippi State Board of Contractors (MSBOC) provides an online database of licensed contractors on its website searchable by the public to verify the status of their contractor's license. Homeowners can make a quick search on the portal using the contractor's name or license number.
In Mississippi, all contractors performing new residential construction worth more than $50,000 must obtain a state-issued license from MSBOC. Similarly, contractors performing residential remodeling or roofing works worth more than $10,000 must hold a license from the MSBOC. However, licenses for electricians, plumbers, and HVAC contractors are administered by city or county authority where these professionals work. Hence, to verify the license of your electrician, plumber, or HVAC technician in Mississippi, contact the city or county building department.
While the penalties for contracting without a valid license in Mississippi are not clearly stated, violators are subject to a fine of up to 3% of the total contract amount which may include the suspension or revocation of other licensing privileges.
How Much Does a Contractor Charge in
The average cost of hiring a contractor in Mississippi is $60 - $100 per hour. Note that contractor costs generally depend on the type of work that is to be done and the amount of labor that will be required to perform this job. Other factors that may influence the cost of hiring a contractor in Mississippi include your location and the cost of materials that may be needed for the job. Listed below are hourly cost estimates of some Mississippi contractors:
Just like contractors, the cost of retaining the services of an attorney also depends on factors like the attorney’s level of experience, your location, and the type of service that the attorney is expected to render. Homeowners typically hire attorneys to help with contract drafting and reviewing, but you may decide to hire one for other reasons. The average hourly rate of Mississippi attorneys is $150 - $300. However, some attorneys charge flat fees that range from $50 – $1,000 to render specified services.
What Are Home Improvement
Scams in Mississippi?
Home improvement scams in Mississippi are fraudulent schemes purposefully undertaken by contractors and other individuals to deceptively obtain money from homeowners. A person is said to commit a home improvement scam in Mississippi when any of the following occur:
- The person knowingly misrepresents the terms of a home improvement contract. This includes promising to perform a job without any intention or knowledge of how to do so
- The person uses deception, false pretenses, or false promises to get a homeowner to sign a home improvement contract or enter a home improvement agreement
- The person uses a false name or address
- The person uses deception, coercion, or force to get a homeowner to modify the original terms of a home improvement contract or agreement
- The person knowingly damages a homeowner's property to get this homeowner to enter into a home improvement contract or agreement
- The person claims to be a government or public utility employee or agent to get a homeowner to enter into a home improvement contract or agreement
Even though hiring contractors to perform home improvement jobs comes with the unavoidable risk of getting entangled with a fraudulent contractor, you can limit your exposure to home improvement scams by taking certain steps. The most important step is ensuring that any contractor you hire is properly licensed by the Mississippi State Board of Contractors. You should also avoid making full payments for a project that has not been completed, and limit any initial payment that you make to 10% - 20% of the project's total cost. Always get a detailed written contract, preferably one that has been reviewed by an attorney, and never make cash payments to contractors
You can file complaints against fraudulent contractors by submitting a signed Complaint Form, along with any other relevant documents, to the state’s Board of Contractors at:
- Mississippi State Board of Contractors
- ATTN: Complaint Department
- P. O. Box 320279
- Jackson, MS 39232
Individuals that are found guilty of committing home improvement scams in Mississippi may face varying penalties that depend on the circumstances of the scam. These penalties are:
- A fine of not more than $1,000, imprisonment in a county jail for no longer than six months, or both, for first-time offenders in scams that involve less than $5,000
- A fine of not more than $1,000, imprisonment in a county jail for no longer than six months, or both, for second or subsequent offenders in scams that involve $1,000 or less
- Imprisonment with the state's Department of Corrections for no longer than two years for second or subsequent offenders in scams that involve more than $1,000 but less than $5,000
- A fine of not more than $10,000, imprisonment with the state's Department of Corrections for no longer than five years, or both, for offenders in scams that involve more than $4,999 but less than $10,000
- A fine of not more than $10,000, imprisonment with the state's Department of Corrections for no longer than ten years, or both, for offenders in scams that involve $10,000 or more
Note that in addition to these penalties, individuals found guilty of committing home improvement scams may also be ordered to make restitution to their victims. The Mississippi State Board of Contractors publishes and regularly updates a violator webpage that contains a list of commercial and residential contractors accused of violating the state’s licensing laws and regulations and any penalties that were levied against these contractors.
What are Common Home Improvement Scams in Mississippi?
Fraudulent contractors typically employ various tactics that are designed to lower your guard and get them to deceptively obtain money from you. In many cases, these tactics are directed at older Mississippians, who are considered easier targets that also have more access to cash than the younger residents of the state. As such to avoid becoming a victim of a home improvement scam, you have to be able to spot the signs and tactics of fraudulent contractors. The most common signs of a home improvement scams are:
- The contractor shows up at your home uninvited
- The contractor offers you prices that are much lower than the going rate for your project
- The contractor claims to have surplus materials from a previous job
- The contractor tries to pressure you into accepting limited-time offers
- The contractor insists on upfront payments. Even though there are no statutory limitations on contractor upfront payments in Mississippi, you should never pay for the full cost of any project before it has been properly completed
- The contractor insists on cash payments
- The contractor either cannot or refuses to provide you with references
- The contractor claims that you do not need a written contract
- The contractor tries to convince you to obtain any necessary permits by yourself
- The contractor does not have a current license
It is advisable to hire a different contractor if you notice any of these signs in the one that you intend to hire. In 2020, the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office announced its support for a federal bipartisan bill that aims to help elder victims of fraud and scams recoup their financial losses. Also, between January and April 2021, the state’s Board of Contractors resolved more than 20 consumer complaints filed against residential contractors that were accused of violating the state’s contractor laws. These violations include working without an appropriate license and receiving payments for jobs without performing them.
If you think that you are being, or have been, scammed by a contractor, you should try to resolve the issue in question with the contractor. However, if any attempts at resolution fail, then you should file a complaint against the contractor with the Mississippi Board of Contractors.
What are Disaster Scams in Mississippi?
Disaster scams in Mississippi are fraudulent activities that are specifically targeted at Mississippians that require home repair services in the aftermath of a disaster. Getting involved in a disaster scam can make an already stressful experience even worse. Therefore, if your home has been affected by a disaster, you should take note of the following tips before hiring a home repair contractor to avoid becoming a victim of a disaster scam:
- Do not rush into any repairs, no matter how badly you might think that you need them
- Be cautious of door-to-door contractors that offer home repair services or business cards and flyers left on your doorstep that advertise these services
- Get at least three bids, quotes, or estimates
- Ask for and verify references from the contractor that you select
- Ask the contractor how the job will be carried out. You should also inquire about post-job debris removal and cleanup
- Make sure that this contractor is properly licensed and qualified to carry out the necessary repairs. You can check out a contractor’s license status online.
- Verify that the contractor is insured and bonded
- Always get a written contract
- Never let payments get ahead of the work. Do not pay the full cost of the project until it has been completed to your satisfaction, and limit any advance payments to 10% - 20% of the project’s total cost. You should also never pay in cash
- Request receipts and records of payment and keep these documents properly
- Report any suspected disaster scams to the state’s Attorney General’s Office. You can also file a complaint against fraudulent contractors with the state’s Board of Contractors.
What are Common Legal
Work Scams in Mississippi?
A legal work scam is any activity that uses law-related schemes and tactics to fraudulently obtain money, financial information, or sensitive personal information from unsuspecting individuals. An example of these types of scams in Mississippi is the mortgage relief scam. In this scam, con artists pretending to be attorneys or representatives of law firms contact Mississippian homeowners that are in financial distress and claim that they can help these homeowners negotiate deals to reduce the mortgages on their homes for a fee. Variants of this scam involve the con artists asking these homeowners to make mortgage payments directly to them while the negotiation is ongoing or requesting an upfront fee to perform a forensic audit of their target’s mortgage documents.
Another example of legal work scams in Mississippi is the jury duty scam. Here, a con artist contacts Mississippians that are eligible for jury duty, tells them that they missed a jury duty summons, and then threatens them into paying a fine to avoid getting arrested.
To avoid falling victim to these, or any other, types of legal work scams in Mississippi, you should take note of the following:
- Always verify the licensing status of any individual that claims to be an attorney through the Mississippi Bar’s online directory
- Never pay upfront fees to any individual that you have not thoroughly checked out
- Be wary of individuals that only accept payment via cash, wire transfers, or cashier’s checks
- Never give in to pressure and sign documents that you do not understand
- Never wire money to any individual that claims to be a court or government official
- Hang up immediately an unknown caller tries to coerce or threaten you into making a payment
- Never make mortgage payments directly to any individual that is not your lender
- Be wary of any individual that claims to be able to stop your home’s foreclosure process, or guarantees you a loan modification, regardless of your circumstances
- Report any cases of legal work scams that you encounter to the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office
How Long Does It Take to Get a Contractor License in
It takes approximately ten days for the Mississippi State Board of Contractors to review a license application and issue a license. Note that this review process will not begin until the applicant has submitted either a Commercial Application Form or a Residential Application Form, along with every other required documentation and fees for obtaining the applicable license, and passes any applicable tests. The application forms should be submitted to:
- Mississippi State Board of Contractors
- P.O. Box 320279
- Jackson, MS 39232-0279
How to Maintain Your License in Mississippi
Licensed contractors in Mississippi can perform actions like changing the name or address on their license, changing the status of the license, applying for additional classifications to their license, and changing the qualifying party listed on the license by completing the appropriate application forms and submitting them, along with any required fees and additional documents, to the state’s Board of Contractors at:
- Mississippi State Board of Contractors
- P.O. Box 320279
- Jackson, MS 39232-0279
In addition to this, qualifying parties that are named on residential licenses that were issued on or after July 1, 2015, are required to complete two credit hours of approved continuing education every year.
Likewise, Mississippi attorneys are required to report name and address changes to the Mississippi Bar. Address updates can be done online via the attorney’s member portal, while name change updates are done by completing a Name Change Form and submitting it along with a copy of a document evidencing the name change to the state’s Bar via fax to (601) 355-8635 or via email. Queries concerning name and address changes can also be sent to this email address. Finally, Mississippi attorneys are also required to complete and report a minimum of 12 hours of Continuing Legal Education each year.
How to Renew a Contractor License in
Mississippi contractors are required to renew their licenses annually regardless of whether the licenses are active or inactive. The state’s Board for Contractors typically mails all licensees a renewal notice 60 days before their license expiration date. Note that this mail is sent to the address provided in the contractor’s licensing registration information, and so contractors are advised to update this information as soon as it changes. Renewals can be done online or by submitting either a Commercial Renewal License Form or a Residential License Renewal Form, along with any required documents and applicable renewal fees, to:
- Mississippi State Board of Contractors
- P.O. Box 320279
- Jackson, MS 39232-0279
Licensees are given a late renewal grace period of up to 180 days after the expiration date on their licenses. Contractors that still fail to renew their licenses during this grace period will be required to apply for a new license.
Similarly, attorneys in Mississippi renew their licenses by paying annual enrollment fees. Payment of these fees can be done online through the attorney’s Mississippi Bar member portal. Once this fee has been paid, the attorney is mailed a new bar card that serves as the attorney’s identification as a member of the state’s Bar as well as confirmation of the payment. Attorneys that fail to pay this fee 90 days after receiving a renewal notice will be suspended from the Mississippi Bar, and can only be reinstated after paying the delinquent fees and a penalty fee. However, active attorneys that are over the age of 75, judges, and inactive attorneys that are retired from the practice of law in Mississippi due to serious illness, permanent disability, or old age, are exempt from paying these annual enrollment fees.
Queries concerning attorney enrollment fees and attorney bar cards can be directed to the Mississippi Bar’s Membership Department via email.