Illinois Contractor License Search

What You Should Know about Hiring a Contractor in Illinois

Contractors in Illinois are primarily licensed at the local level. Currently, there are over 174,000 contractors licensed in various trades across the counties and cities in the state. Hiring a licensed professional to handle your project saves you a lot of stress and money. A licensed contractor will complete your project per all regulatory codes and standards. Also, licensed contractors must hold bond and insurance policies to cover damages, workplace injuries, and uncompleted work.

When searching for a contractor in Illinois, you should consider verifying the contractor's license and the following issues:

Who Is a Contractor in Illinois?

Illinois contractors are individuals or companies permitted to conduct business in the state and provide agreed-on services to interested parties per written or oral contract terms. These services typically include constructing new buildings and repairing, remodeling, renovating, or improving existing residential and commercial properties. Contractor licensing in Illinois is mostly handled at the city or county level; however, certain specialty trades, like plumbing and roofing, are regulated by state agencies like the Illinois Department of Health (IDH) and the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR).

Contractors in Illinois can be broadly categorized as follows:

  • General Contractors: these contractors primarily oversee and manage construction and home improvement projects on behalf of the project owner but may also undertake construction tasks that do not require specialized skills or licensing. General contractors can be further categorized as residential, commercial, and industrial contractors, depending on their specific areas of specialization and expertise. As stated earlier, general contractors in Illinois are regulated locally. For example, general contractors wishing to operate in Chicago must first obtain a license from the Chicago Department of Buildings license. This department offers general contractors five license classifications, each with a monetary limit on the total value of work the contractor may undertake per project. Similarly, general contractors in Aurora and Joliet must be licensed or registered by the Aurora Department of Building and Permits and the Joliet Building and Inspection Services Division, respectively.
  • Specialty Contractors: these contractors offer specific construction and home improvement services, which may require specialized skills and training, like electrical work, plumbing, and HVAC work (these contractors typically have to pass written and practical tests before being licensed). Specialty contractors are also regulated locally by city or county agencies – in situations where a state-issued license is required, like for plumbers, these contractors will have to register with the local regulatory authority. Project owners typically hire specialty contractors for one-off jobs or general contractors to perform specific tasks within larger projects (in this scenario, the specialty contractor is referred to as a "subcontractor" and usually has no interaction with the project owner).

How to Search for a Contractor's License in Illinois

General contractors and most specialty contractors in Illinois are licensed and regulated by city and county agencies – plumbers and roofing contractors require professional licenses from the state's Department of Health (IDPH) and Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR). You can utilize the Uhire Professional License Search tool to confirm whether your intended Illinois contractors are appropriately licensed to provide your required services. This tool enables you to conduct searches based on name, license number, and location and provides a convenient way to verify the licensing status of Illinois contractors.

You can also verify contractor licenses in Illinois by contacting your local building department or consumer protection agency – they can provide you with necessary information on contractor regulations for your locality and confirm if your intended contractor has complied with these requirements. Where the contractor in question is a plumber or roofing contractor, you can use the tools available on the IDPH's Plumber License Search and the IDFPR's License Lookup respective webpages to verify their state-issued license.

Penalty for Hiring a Contractor Without a License in Illinois

While there are no specific penalties outlined for hiring unlicensed contractors in Illinois, it is important to be aware of the potential drawbacks associated with doing this:

  • Lack of Skills and Experience: Engaging an unlicensed contractor increases the risk of hiring someone without the necessary skills and experience for the job. This can result in subpar services and potential safety hazards, jeopardizing the quality and success of your project.
  • Absence of Insurance and Bonding: Unlicensed contractors often lack insurance or bonding. Consequently, you may bear responsibility for any accidents or injuries that occur during the project and also face financial losses if the contractor fails to meet the terms of your agreement.
  • Code Violations: unlicensed contractors cannot pull required permits and are likely to carry on the project without complying with relevant construction regulations – this, in turn, leads to code violations, resultant sanctions, and even a potential decrease in your property's value.

Even though there are no penalties for hiring unlicensed contractors in Illinois, it is generally unlawful for contractors across the state to offer their services without appropriate licensing or registration – penalties for this are set by relevant local and state authorities. For example, contracting without a city-issued license in Chicago is punishable by up to $5,000 per offense. Offering or performing plumbing services in any location across the state without a valid state-issued also carries civil penalties of up to $5,000 per offense; this penalty is doubled for providing unlicensed roofing services.

How Much Does a Contractor Charge in Illinois?

The average cost of hiring specialty contractors in Illinois is $65 - $120 per hour, and the nature and scope of your required services typically determine overall costs.

The table below lists the typical hourly rates for several types of specialty contractors in Illinois (note that actual costs may vary depending on your location and the contractor's level of experience and local reputation):

$90 - $115
$85 - $120
HVACR Technicians
$80 - $115
$70 - $100
$60 - $100
$70 - $135
Flooring Contractors
$65 - $105
$65 - $100
$45 - $90
$85 - $200
Interior Designers
$70 - $160
Excavation Contractors
$70 - $150
Concrete Contractors
$65 - $100
$45 - $90
Appliance Repair Technicians
$45 - $90
$50 - $100
Cleaning Services
$60 - $100
$50 - $150

Most construction and home improvement projects typically require the involvement of at least two specialty contractors, and properly supervising these contractors may prove stressful. Hiring a general contractor to manage your project can save you the hassle of handling several contractors, suppliers, and laborers. Note that general contractors typically charge clients about 10 – 20 percent of the total project cost for the services – general contractors in Illinois commonly utilize one of two methods to estimate their fees:

  • Lump Sum Pricing: with this method, the contractor provides all the agreed-upon services for a fixed price. The price includes a markup to account for unforeseen circumstances. Lump sum pricing is suitable for projects with well-defined scopes.
  • Cost Plus Pricing: with this method, the contractor charges the actual cost of labor and materials plus a predetermined amount that serves as their fee. This pricing method is preferable for projects with uncertain scopes, as it can save you money if the project costs less than estimated. However, it is advisable to establish a maximum price cap to prevent costs from escalating in cases where the project extends beyond the expected timeframe.

The average cost of construction and home improvement projects in Illinois is $105 to $170 per square foot. Overall costs are influenced by factors like

  • The project's scope.
  • Your location.
  • Involved contractors' level of experience and local reputation.
  • Contractor fees.
  • Labor and material costs.
  • Site accessibility and conditions.
  • Permit fees and other miscellaneous expenses.

Tips for Hiring a Contractor in Illinois

Considering that construction and home improvement projects can sometimes run into thousands (and even millions) of dollars, ensuring that the contractors you hire are suitably qualified and experienced is imperative. The tips provided below can help you hire the right contractors for your projects in Illinois:

  • Get a clear idea of your intended project and all it entails
  • Get quotes from at least three contractors
  • Check with your local building department to ensure your preferred contractors are properly licensed or registered. If you require plumbers or roofers, you can check their licenses with the IDPH and the IDFPR, respectively.
  • Ask for references (preferably local ones) and always check them
  • Make sure that all involved contractors are properly insured and bonded
  • Get a written contract before any work starts and ensure that it includes a description of the project, its total cost, and its estimated timeline. If the project's estimated cost exceeds $1,000, ensure the contractor gives you a "Home Repair: Know Your Consumer Rights" pamphlet.
  • Never sign contracts that contain blank spaces. Ensure you read and understand any documents you are asked to sign before doing so.
  • Limit down payments to a maximum of 25 percent of the project's total cost. Never pay the full price of your project upfront, and do not hire any contractor who asks you to do this.
  • Avoid cash payments
  • Request lien waivers from your general contractor and all involved subcontractors and suppliers (this protects your property in case the general contractor defaults on payments)
  • Ensure the project has been satisfactorily executed before making final payments or signing a certificate of completion.
  • Keep all project-related paperwork carefully. You can also consider taking pictures of the project as it progresses.

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

Except for workers' compensation insurance, which is mandatory for all employers in the state, Illinois contractors' insurance and bond requirements are typically determined by their license type and area of operation. For instance, general contractors in Chicago must carry general liability insurance of at least $1,000,000 to $5,000,000 per occurrence (the contractor's license classification determines specific minimum limits). Likewise, state-licensed roofing contractors must carry public liability and property damage insurance of at least $250,000 per occurrence for property damage and $500,000 per occurrence for personal injury or bodily harm. They must also maintain a continuous surety bond with a minimum of $10,000 to $25,000.

Hiring adequately insured and bonded contractors ensures you do not have to pay for any on-the-job injuries, property damage, or other unforeseen adverse situations that may arise during your project. Even though "insured" and "bonded" are used synonymously, they differ. Insurance covers the cost of accidents, injuries, and similar work-related incidents, while bonds protect you from financial loss if your contractor fails to complete the agreed-upon project.

Therefore, ask your intended request contractors for copies of their insurance and bond certificates and validate them with the appropriate issuers to ensure their authenticity. When validating their credentials, you should also confirm that the contractor's coverage limits will be sufficient for your project. You can contact your local building department to determine the specific insurance and bond requirements for contractors in your area.

Top Home Improvement Scams in Illinois

Construction and home improvement-related issues are Illinoisans' number one complaint category. These complaints accounted for over 10 percent of the total complaints filed with the state's Attorney General's Office in 2022. Unscrupulous contractors employ various schemes to obtain money from unsuspecting homeowners – older citizens fraudulently are often the targets of these scams due to their perceived vulnerability. Therefore, when planning your home improvement projects in Illinois, consider it a red flag if your intended contractor does any of the following:

  • Claims to have leftover materials from a previous job and offers to use them for you at a discount
  • Tries to pressure or scare you into making on-the-spot decisions
  • Seems hesitant to offer references
  • Tries to downplay the importance of written contracts
  • Demands cash payment or asks that checks be made out to a third-party
  • Drives unmarked vehicles or one with out-of-state tags
  • Offers to drive you to the bank to withdraw funds for the project

You can significantly reduce the chances of falling victim to the schemes of these unscrupulous contractors by taking the following precautions:

  • Be wary of unsolicited contractors
  • Get and compare quotes for your project from at least three contractors
  • Check with your local building department to confirm if your preferred contractor has complied with applicable licensing requirements.
  • Confirm that the contractor is adequately insured and bonded
  • Insist on a written contract and review it properly before signing
  • Never pay the total cost of your project upfront, and do not pay more than 25 percent of this cost as a down payment
  • Never let subsequent payments get ahead of the job. Make sure the project has been satisfactorily completed before making the final payment.

How to Report Fraudulent Illinois Contractors

Various resources are available to assist you in addressing fraudulent Illinois contractors. These include

The Illinois Attorney General's Office.

You can report unscrupulous and dishonest contractors by filing a complaint with the Office of the Illinois Attorney General. While this office cannot act as your private attorney, it can investigate the matter, provide you with the necessary information, offer mediation services, and direct you to appropriate agencies.

Small Claims Court

You can sue fraudulent contractors for breach of contract, personal injury, property damage, or other similar matters in a small claims court. These courts offer a relatively straightforward process that allows you to file lawsuits without an attorney; however, your claim cannot exceed $10,000. Note that you will have to pay a filing fee, depending on the amount you are suing for. Nonetheless, this filing fee is not usually more than $250, but you may need a separate fee for serving the contractor.

The Better Business Bureau (BBB)

Your local Better Business Bureau chapter can help you seek redress from unscrupulous and fraudulent contractors. Reporting home improvement scams to this organization also helps protect other homeowners in your area from falling victim to dishonest contractors.

Local Police Departments

In cases of threats or theft by a contractor, promptly report the incident to your local police department before taking other complaint resolution actions.