Maryland Criminal Attorney– Baltimore Criminal Lawyer I represented a defendant this afternoon in Prince Georges County District Court who was charged both with acting as a home improvement contractor without a license and failure to perform a home improvement contract which usually means failure to complete the contract to the homeowners satisfaction as it was in this case. Many people, including many new contractors, don’t realize that it is illegal to operate as a home improvement contractor without a license or to fail to perform the contract and that violations of this sort carry significant criminal sanctions or just how broad the definition of home improvement is.
The Annotated Code, Business Regulation Article defines both what constitutes home improvement as well as what the criminal penalties are for violations. According to Section 8-101 Home Improvement means: 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 that building. In addition to the obvious things like building an addition or finishing a basement, home improvement includes work such as repaving a driveway and the connection, installation or replacement of a dishwasher, disposal or refrigerator. It also includes work such as landscaping or building a fence.
As far as penalties are concerned, as I indicated previously, they can be quite severe. For a first offense of acting as a contractor without a license a person can be sentenced to 30 days in jail and be fined up to $1000. For a second or subsequent offense the maximum penalty is 2 years in jail and a fine of $5000. In addition to the criminal penalties a contractor can be forced by the court to refund the entire contract price to the homeowner, even for work that was satisfactorily completed. The maximum penalty for failure to perform a contract is 6 months and a fine of up to $1000.
The Maryland Home Improvement Commission takes violations of these provisions very seriously as do the Maryland Courts. The Commission has a team of aggressive investigators who investigate and prepare these matters for trial. These matters can also be quite difficult to defend as there is no defense to acting as a contractor without a license and the courts are usually inclined to side with the homeowner in failure to perform actions. My client today was fortunate. Prior to coming to court he had satisfied the homeowner which is always the court’s paramount concern. The investigator was also reasonable as was the Assistant State’s Attorney and the judge. Unfortunately, as I said, there really is no defense to acting as a contractor without a license. However, because my client had a good background I was able to get him unsupervised probation before judgement with a small fine. This will afford him the ability to have the matter expunged in the near future so long as he remains law abiding. I am also advising him on how to get his license because things may not go so well for him next time if he doesn’t.