Hawaii Contractor License Search

What You Should Know about Hiring a Contractor in Hawaii

Hawaii has over 12,500 licensed contractors, but only about 11,200 are active and readily available for hire. Hiring the right professional contractor for your project is essential. Contractors with appropriate licensing, insurance, and experience adhere to required codes and regulations in completing their work. Note that having a licensed and insured contractor protects you from financial and legal liabilities in work-related accidents.

You should verify your contractor's documentation before signing off on the paperwork to forestall any costly delay, financial setback, or potential safety hazard. Hence, it is wise to consider the following key factors:

Who Is a Contractor in Hawaii?

Any person who offers, contracts, or holds themself out as capable of performing any type of construction work, such as public works, residential, or commercial, must have a contractor license. A contractor is a person who provides services to others for a fee, and these agreements can be made either in writing or oral form.

The Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA), through its Professional & Vocational Licensing Division, oversees the licensing of contractors in the state. The department requires all individuals offering services to residents as contractors or specialty contractors like electricians, plumbers, HVAC-R, and carpenters to be licensed. The DCCA issues two main types of licenses, namely:

  • General Contractors: general contractors are responsible for overseeing home improvement and construction projects and coordinating the work of subcontractors involved. Although they usually manage the project's day-to-day operations, contractors can also perform repairs and construction. General contractors in Hawaii are subdivided into two including:
    • "A" General Engineering Contractors: These contractors engage in the construction or maintenance of fixed works that require specialized engineering skill and knowledge, including irrigation, harbor and shipyards, dams, railways, airports, sewage disposal plants, and roads.
    • "B" General Building Contractor: These contractors construct or maintain any built structure or being built or piece of property to be built on. That includes the construction of shelter, enclosure, or support structure for animals, people, or movable property requiring multiple building trades and crafts.
  • "C" Specialty Contractors: Specialty contractors carry out construction work that requires special skills, such as painting and decorating, electrical work, and flooring. These contractors also work on projects involving specific crafts or building trades. Some general contractors can also perform specialty construction without further examination and additional payment, like scaffolding, swimming pool, drywall, and carpentry framing.

How to Search for a Contractor's License in Hawaii

The Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA) requires all individuals handling projects worth over $1,500 as a general or specialty contractor to hold a valid state-issued contractor license.

You can verify the licensing status of your prospective contractors through Uhire's professional license search tool. This tool can help you confirm whether or not a potential contractor has the appropriate license to operate in Hawaii.

Also, you can confirm the licensing status of your preferred contractor using their license number or name on DCCA's Professional & Vocational Licensing (MyPVL) search platform. Alternatively, you can also contact the Licensing and Business Registration Information Section of the DCCA at 587-4272 to confirm the licensing status of your prospective contractor.

Penalty for Hiring a Contractor Without a License in Hawaii

While hiring an unlicensed contractor in Arizona is not subject to any specific penalties, there are still various drawbacks you need to know, including:

  • Unlicensed contractors typically don't have the necessary insurance and bonding to carry out their work. This can expose you to potential liabilities for property damage and injuries.
  • Unlicensed contractors cannot obtain necessary permits and can't carry out home improvement or construction projects. Carrying out home improvement or construction projects without the proper permits could lead to administrative sanctions, fines, and even a reduction in your property's value.
  • If you hire an inexperienced and unqualified contractor, they may be prone to making mistakes and delivering unsatisfactory services.

Note that in Hawaii, it is illegal for individuals to engage in construction business activities outside their license's scope. They face a fine of $500 on the first offense and $1,000 on the second offense. Violators are also subject to a fine of up to $1,500 or more on subsequent offenses.

How Much Does a Contractor Charge in Hawaii?

Typically, specialty contractors charge around $60 to $130 an hour for labor rates in Hawaii. The exact cost can vary depending on the nature of their work and the labor intensity required for your project.

The table below shows Hawaii's average hourly rates charged by commonly requested specialty contractors. Note that the reputation of the subcontractor and your location could impact the actual cost:

$50 - $150
$60 - $150
HVACR Technicians
$75 - $150
$40 - $85
$50 - $75
$60 - $100
Flooring Contractors
$50 - $80
$60 - $100
$50 - $100
$70 - $200
Interior Designers
$70 - $175
Excavation Contractors
$100 - $220
Concrete Contractors
$60 - $100
$50 - $70
Appliance Repair Technicians
$50 - $100
$60 - $100
Cleaning Services
$55 - $100
$60 - $150

Specialty contractors are commonly required during different construction projects, such as residential, industrial, and commercial. You may be overwhelmed and stressed by overseeing the work of specialty contractors. Meanwhile, if you hire a general contractor, they can manage and handle the projects. Contractors usually charge 10 – 20 percent of the project's overall cost, calculated using one of the following pricing methods:

  • Lump Sum Pricing: The general contractor provides a fixed price for the project, which includes a markup for the materials and labor involved. This type of pricing method is ideal for well-defined construction projects.
  • Cost Plus Pricing: This pricing method is typically used for projects that do not have a clear scope or timeline. The general contractor estimates the required materials and supplies and an hourly rate for the labor and subcontractors.

For construction or home improvement projects in Hawaii, you can pay around $40 to $140 per square foot. Nevertheless, the total cost of the work will depend on various factors, including:

  • The project's nature and scope
  • Contractor fees
  • The cost of required materials
  • Your location
  • The urgency of the work
  • Accessibility to the project site
  • Site conditions
  • The reputation and experience of the contractors involved
  • Permit costs, labor charges, and other miscellaneous expenses

Tips for Hiring a Contractor in Hawaii

Carrying home repairs, building, or construction projects can be expensive. To ensure that the contractors hired for these jobs are competent and up to the task, it's essential to thoroughly understand the scope of the project and the kind of individuals you will need to hire. Doing so will allow you to identify the contractors you need and determine their qualifications. Therefore, before you hire a contractor, you should take the following necessary steps to ensure that they are competent and trustworthy:

  • Verify their license with the Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA) to ensure it is valid.
  • Request for references of past clients from your potential contractors. Contact those references to learn about their service delivery and experience.
  • Request and compare quotes from several contractors in Hawaii. Be wary of hiring a contractor with significantly low or high bids.
  • Verify the contractor and subcontractors are insured and bonded.
  • Insist on a written contract, including the project details, scope, timeline, payment schedule, and warranties. Ensure you carefully review the agreement before signing it.
  • Avoid cash payments
  • Consider it a red flag if a contractor asks you to pull permits yourself.
  • Ensure the job has been concluded satisfactorily before making final payments.
  • Keep all project-related documentation safe; these include contracts, invoices, receipts, and correspondence.
  • Avoid paying the total cost of your project in advance. Limit upfront payment to between 10 percent of the total project cost.

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

General and specialty contractors must post a bond of not less than $5,000. They must also maintain employee workers' compensation insurance, if any. Nevertheless, we recommend hiring a bonded and insured contractor to help minimize the risk of unexpected liabilities, such as property damage and injuries.

Even though bonding and insurance are essential financial safety nets, they have different purposes. A bond protects the contractor and the project owner from financial losses if a contractor fails to deliver on its obligations. On the other hand, insurance prevents the project owner from being held liable for any accidents that might occur during the project.

Hence, before you commit to a contractor, ensure they are adequately insured and bonded. You can do this by requesting a copy of their certificate and validating it with their insurer. Contact the Professional & Vocational Licensing Division of the Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA) at (808) 586-3000 for more information about bond requirements and other financial obligations for contractors in the state.

Top Home Improvement Scams in Hawaii

It has been estimated that about 2.4 out of every 10,000 homeowners in Hawaii are victims of fraudulent contractor scams. These contractors use various schemes to take advantage of their victims, including:

  • Showing up uninvited at your doorstep offering unsolicited services.
  • Employing the use of high-pressure tactics like offering limited-time deals
  • Requesting full payment or sizeable upfront payment before commencing the project.
  • Presenting fake license or insurance documents
  • Exaggerating the need for repairs or
  • Recommending unnecessary services to bill you more
  • Insisting on verbal agreements and downplaying or refusing to provide written contracts.
  • Avoiding pulling necessary permits

When planning a home improvement project, make sure that you take the following necessary steps to protect yourself from fraudulent contractors:

  • Ask for lien waivers to protect you and your property
  • Avoid paying cash
  • Check reviews, testimonials, and ratings from past clients.
  • Verify their licenses, bond, and insurance status.
  • Get and compare detailed written cost estimates from multiple contractors
  • Be wary of significantly low bids
  • Request for references from previous clients and inquire about your prospective contractor's quality of work and professionalism.
  • Request proof of insurance and verify the coverage with their insurance provider.
  • Get a written contract that outlines the scope of work, project details, timeline, and payment timeline.
  • Avoid making large upfront payments and limit down payments to a maximum of 30 percent of the project's total cost.
  • Keep copies of all project-related documentation like contracts, invoices, and receipts safe.
  • Ensure all the work is finished according to the contract terms before making the final payment.

How to Report Fraudulent Hawaii Contractors

You can report matters involving unscrupulous contractors and home improvement scams in Hawaii and seek redress on these issues through several agencies, including:

The Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA)

If you are approached by a business or individual offering to perform work, but you discover that they do not have a contractor's license, contact the Regulated Industries Complaints Office of the Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA) at 587-4272 or toll-free 1-800-394-1902 for further investigation. However, you should file a professional licensing complaint if you entered into an agreement or contract with an unlicensed contractor. You can do this by filling out and sending a complaint form via mail to:

Regulated Industries Complaints Office
Attention: Consumer Resource Center
235 South Beretania Street, 9th Floor
Honolulu, Hawaii 96813

The Police Department

We recommend contacting your local police department to report contractors who physically threaten or steal from you.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB)

The local Better Business Bureau chapter in Hawaii can help you resolve any issues related to contractors in the state. By reporting contractors who are fraudulent to your local Better Business Bureau branch, you can help protect other individuals from getting victimized by these contractors.

Small Claims Court

If you are a victim of fraud and want to receive compensation, you can file a small claims lawsuit. These courts only handle disputes at most $5,000 less than $8,000. If the money in dispute is over $5,000, you can file a claim at the appropriate Hawaii Circuit Court. Filing fees for these types of cases can vary depending on your location.

Cities in Hawaii