MHIC Licensing Rules and Regulations

From time to time, questions arise concerning various Maryland Home Improvement Commission (MHIC) licensing rules and regulations.  Recently, a question was raised regarding whether or not an MHIC license is required to install laminate flooring in a residential dwelling.  We would like to take this opportunity to clear up some of the confusion surrounding the MHIC licensing requirements.

What is a “home improvement?”  Under the Maryland Code, a “home improvement” is defined as “the addition to or alteration, conversion, improvement, modernization, remodeling, repair, or replacement of a building or part of a building that is used or designed to be used as a residence or dwelling place or a structure adjacent to that building; or an improvement to land adjacent to the building.” A home improvement includes work that is done in an occupied residential dwelling including single family homes, individual condominium units or multi-family dwellings with fewer than four individual units.  It does not include the construction of new homes, work done in apartment buildings with four or more units, or work done in the common areas of condominiums. Although neither the Maryland Code nor the Regulations address specific flooring products, the Maryland Home Improvement Commission has previously concluded that the installation of carpet does not meet the definition of a “home improvement.”  Accordingly, no license is required to install carpet. However, at the present time, there is no exception for any other type of flooring product.  According to attorneys Susan Cherry of the Maryland Attorney General’s Office and Joel Jacobson, who is Counsel to the Maryland Home Improvement Commission, the Commission has previously considered whether the installation of “floating” floors such as laminate flooring falls under the definition of a “home improvement.”  The Commission has concluded that the installation of laminate and other floating flooring products does, in fact constitute a “home improvement” for which an MHIC license is required.  Consequently, anyone who installs laminate or any other type of floating flooring that is installed in a similar manner MUST have an MHIC license even though the product is not permanently adhered to the dwelling in any way. Who is required to obtain an MHIC license? Any person who acts as a contractor or a subcontractor who performs home improvement services, or a salesperson who sells a home improvement in the State is required to obtain a license from the MHIC. If you hold an MHIC contractor’s license, and you have employee installers who perform home improvement services (in other words, who install any flooring product other than carpet), your employees are covered under your contractor’s license.  On the other hand, if you engage a subcontractor to perform home improvement services under the terms of your contract with a homeowner, the subcontractor must hold an MHIC contractor or subcontractor license of his or her own.  A person who holds an MHIC subcontractor license may not contract directly with a homeowner and can only work under a licensed contractor.  It is illegal for any unlicensed contractor or unlicensed subcontractor to perform home improvement services.  There are both civil and criminal penalties including fines up to $5,000 and up to 6 months in jail for performing home improvement services without a license or allowing an unlicensed contractor or subcontractor to perform services on your behalf. With regard to salespersons, anyone who solicits the sale of a home improvement, negotiates the sale of a home improvement, or signs a sales contract on behalf of a licensed contractor must have an MHIC salesperson license.  Accordingly, every salesperson employed in a retail flooring establishment that sells and installs a variety of flooring products must be licensed (including salespersons employed in big box stores).  This is particularly important if the salesperson travels to the homeowner’s home to perform any sales services, to negotiate the terms of the sales agreement, or to sign the sales contract.  There are two reasons for this.  One, only a licensed contractor or licensed salesperson employed by a licensed contractor may sign a home improvement contract.  And two, the licensing process is intended to provide the homeowner with a degree of protection by requiring the salesperson to provide information on the license application regarding any criminal convictions that the salesperson may have.  A person who travels to the homeowner’s home to simply perform a measure and does not engage in any sales services is not required to be licensed. Advertising by Licensed Home Improvement Contractors All advertising by licensed contractors or subcontractors must include the contractor or subcontractor’s MHIC license number in the format “Maryland Home Improvement Commission License No.: XXXX” or “MHIC License No.: XXXX.”  Licensed contractors and subcontractors must also display their MHIC license number of both sides of any vehicle primarily used either by the licensed contractor/subcontractor or under the licensed contractor/subcontractor’s direction and control for the performance of home improvement work.  The number should be displayed in the format “MHIC #: XXXX” and the display must be at least 3 inches in height. Contract Requirements If you have not updated your sales contract documents recently, you may want to review your documents.  New regulations have changed the form and content that is required in home improvement contracts.  The “Notice to Home Improvement Contractors” provided by the MHIC and available on their website at provides additional information about contract requirements.