The short answer is YES! The longer answer is that according to 16 DCMR § 800.1, “[n]o person shall require or accept any payment for a home improvement contract to be undertaken in the District in advance of the full completion of all work required to be performed under the contract, unless that person is licensed as a home improvement contractor or a licensed salesperson employed by a licensed contractor in accordance with the provisions of this chapter.” The District of Columbia Municipal Regulations define “home improvement work” as the addition to or alteration, conversion, improvement, modernization, remodeling, repair, or replacement of a residential property, or a structure adjacent to the residential property, including a driveway, fence, garage, porch, deck, or swimming pool. Any construction work outside the scope of “home improvement work” shall be considered either general contracting or construction management. “Home improvement work” does not include 1) construction of a new building to be used as a residential property; 2) the sale or installation of any alliance, materials, household furnishings, or equipment, if not made a part of the realty; 3) work performed by licensed electricians, plumbers and gasfitters, or refrigeration and air conditioning mechanics, so long as the work performed by them is limited to that of their licensed occupation; or 4) work performed by a homeowner on his or her own residential property. 16 DCMR § 899.1.

A contract made in violation of the regulations is deemed void and any monies paid by the homeowner to the unlicensed home improvement contractor is recoverable by the homeowner. District of Columbia courts have repeated allowed for avoidance of the contract and granted judgments in favor of the homeowner for the amounts already paid. Furthermore, a homeowner cannot waive the District’s regulatory requirements on the contractor and a contractor typically cannot avoid liability even if the homeowner was aware of contractor’s unlicensed status.

This regulation is applicable even if:

  • there is no issue with the home improvement work
  • the contractor was paid in periodic installments
  • the contractor hired subcontractors who were licensed to perform the work
  • the homeowner knew that the contractor was not licensed and agreed anyways
  • the contractor becomes licensed and the licensure is applied retroactively
  • the contractor is licensed in another jurisdiction other than the District
  • the contractor is performing work in the common elements of a condominium

If you are a contractor for home improvement work or home renovation, it is imperative that you are complying with all of the District’s licensing requirements. Contact JLGI if you need to apply for a home improvement contractor’s license or facing potential liability for work already performed. Our attorneys and staff are experienced with the District’s regulations and can assist you in complying with the District’s licensing requirements.