How to file a complaint against a licensed contractor with the
Maryland Home Improvement Commission
Understanding the Complaint Process Against Licensed Contractors
- How do I file a complaint?
- What information do I include with my complaint?
- Where do I send the complaint?
- What happens after I file a complaint?
- Does the contractor receive a copy of the complaint?
- What happens if the contractor does not respond to the complaint?
- What happens if the contractor does respond to the complaint?
- How long does an investigation take?
- Will an investigator come to my house?
- What is the purpose of an investigation?
- What happens if MHIC does not pursue regulatory charges based on my
- What happens if MHIC files regulatory charges based on my complaint?
- If there is a hearing based upon my complaint, do I need to appear at
- Are complaints part of the public record?
- How do I benefit from filing a complaint?
- How can I contact my investigator?
- Which complaints are a priority for MHIC?
- Can MHIC force the contractor to come to my house to fix my problems?
1. How do I file a complaint?
The first step in the complaint process is to complete and sign a written complaint form. Complaint forms
are available online, or by visiting the
Commission. You may also call the Commission at 410-230-6309 or 1-888-218-5925 to request that a
complaint form be mailed to you.
2. What information do I include with my complaint?
In addition to the specific information requested on the complaint form, you should attach a copy of the
contract (front and back of all pages) and proof of payment to the contractor, such as copies of both
sides of each check. In addition, please include any emails or other correspondence between you and the
contractor. You may also include pictures or other evidence of the contractor's workmanship. If you
hired an expert or engineer to evaluate the contractor's work, you can include a copy of the inspection
report. Please make sure to fill out the complaint form completely and to sign it. You also should keep an
original copy of all documents that you plan to send to the Commission. Please include 3 copies of the
complaint form and each attachment to the Commission.
3. Where do I send the complaint?
You may mail or hand-deliver the complaint to MHIC, 500 N. Calvert Street, Room 306, Baltimore, MD 21202.
Faxed or emailed copies of complaints are not accepted at this time.
4. What happens after I file a complaint?
After MHIC receives your complaint, a team member reviews your complaint to make sure that MHIC has
jurisdiction over the complaint, assigns a complaint number and sets up a complaint file. The parties'
contact information is put in the database and the contractor's license information and complaint history
is added to the complaint file. In a week or two, you will receive a letter from MHIC confirming receipt
of your complaint.
5. Does the contractor receive a copy of the complaint?
After the complaint is reviewed by a MHIC team member, the contractor is sent a copy of the complaint
along with a Notice of Complaint/Order to Respond. The homeowner also receives a copy of the Notice of
Complaint/Order to Respond. This document notifies the contractor of the complaint and requests a written
response to the complaint within 14 days. In addition to responding to the specific allegations contained
in the complaint, the contractor is required to provide a list of all the subcontractors that worked on
the job, a copy of all permits and inspections for the job, a certificate of liability insurance, and
other documents related to the home improvement job. In the response, the contractor also is instructed
to indicate if she or he wishes to participate in the MHIC mediation program.
6. What happens if the contractor does not respond to the complaint?
If the contractor does not respond to the Notice of Complaint, the Commission may schedule a show cause
hearing before a Hearing Board. At a show cause hearing, the contractor must appear and explain to the
Commission the failure to respond. At the conclusion of the hearing, the Board may take disciplinary
action against the contractor, such as suspending the contractor's MHIC license or fining the contractor
up to $5,000, if it finds that the contractor violated the Home Improvement Law by failing to respond
in writing to the complaint. The homeowner is not required to appear at the show cause hearing. However,
the hearing is public so the homeowner has a right to attend. Homeowners who do attend the show cause
hearing do not have an opportunity to speak to the Hearing Board. Show cause hearings are held before a
Hearing Board of the Commission on the first Thursday of every other month.
7. What happens if the contractor does respond to the complaint?
Once the contractor responds in writing to the complaint, then a MHIC investigator begins an
investigation. The purpose of the investigation is to determine whether there is enough evidence to
support a charge that the contractor violated the Home Improvement Law or regulations. The investigator
may also attempt to have the parties resolve the dispute either informally or by participating in MHIC's
formal mediation program.
8. How long does an investigation take?
The Commission's goal is to complete each investigation within 60 days of receiving the contractor's
response. Some investigations take additional time, especially when one side does not provide all the
9. Will an investigator come to my house?
Most likely, an investigator will not come to your house. MHIC does not have the resources to send an
investigator to visit each homeowner. Instead, MHIC relies upon the homeowner providing photographs and
other evidence to support the complaint. In certain cases that are the highest priority for MHIC, such
as complaint involving elderly homeowners and allegations of fraud, MHIC does attempt to send an
investigator to conduct a site visit.
10. What is the purpose of an investigation?
The purpose of the investigation is to determine whether there is enough evidence to support a charge
that the contractor violated the Home Improvement Law or regulations. Therefore, the scope of the
investigation is limited to answering the following questions: (1) did the contractor perform the home
improvement job in an unworkmanlike manner? (2) did the contractor abandon the home improvement job
without justification? (3) did the contractor commit any other violation of the home improvement law?
If the investigator determines that the answer to any of these questions is "yes," then the investigator
may recommend that the Commission pursue regulatory charges against the contractor. However, the
Commission does not file regulatory charges each time there is an alleged violation. Before the
Commission takes regulatory action against a licensee, the file is reviewed by legal counsel, who
determines whether there is sufficient legal and factual merit to pursue charges. The attorney may
return the file to the investigator for further investigation; may draft the formal statement of
charges; or may decline to file regulatory charges, in which case the complaint is closed. It is
important to remember that the investigations are objective and that the Commission does not advocate
for either the homeowner or the contractor.
11. What happens if MHIC does not pursue regulatory charges based on my complaint?
If the Commission does not pursue regulatory charges against the contractor based upon the complaint
you filed, then the Commission will administratively close the complaint. At that point, you will be
notified in writing that the complaint is closed. You may have the right to file a claim against the
Guaranty Fund or you may file a civil lawsuit in court.
12. What happens if MHIC files regulatory charges based on my complaint?
If MHIC files regulatory charges against the contractor, then the contractor receives a copy of the
Statement of Charges and a hearing notice. Hearings are held at the Office of Administrative Hearings
(OAH) before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Based upon the number and seriousness of the charges,
if the ALJ finds that the contractor violated the Home Improvement Law or regulations, the contractor
may be fined up to $5,000 per violation. In addition, the contractor's license may be suspended or
revoked. In some cases, the contractor may enter into a consent agreement and agree to pay a fine or
to reimburse money to the homeowner, in order to avoid a formal hearing.
13. If there is a hearing based upon my complaint, do I need to appear at the
Yes, whenever the Commission holds a regulatory hearing, it is necessary for the homeowner who filed the
complaint to appear and testify in support of the allegations contained in the complaint. If the homeowner
does not appear to testify at the hearing, the regulatory charges against the contractor may be dropped,
in which case the complaint will be closed.
14. Are complaints part of the public record?
Yes, unless the contractor resolves a complaint within 30 days, each complaint is typically part of the
public record. MHIC does not publish complaints in which the contractor agrees to participate in mediation
or complaints that lacks factual or legal merit. Complaints remain part of the contractor's public
record for 3 fiscal years.
15. How do I benefit from filing a complaint?
The complaint triggers a regulatory investigation, which may have no direct benefit to the homeowner. The
purpose of the investigation is for MHIC to determine if the contractor has violated the Home Improvement
Law. The homeowner does not directly benefit from this investigation, which is aimed at protecting the
public by upholding the professional standards of the home improvement industry in Maryland. However,
in some cases, MHIC will work with the homeowner and the contractor to settle a complaint whereby MHIC
agrees to not pursue regulatory charges against the contractor if the contractor agrees to reimburse
the homeowner for some or all the contract price.
16. How can I contact my investigator?
Each investigator is assigned approximately 90 complaints; in addition investigators are scheduled to
appear in court throughout the State 3 or 4 times per week. Therefore, the best way to communicate with
the investigator assigned to the complaint is by email.
17. Which complaints are a priority for MHIC?
MHIC prioritizes complaints that involve: (a) safety and health issues of the homeowner's primary
residence; (b) elderly or vulnerable homeowners; and (c) complaints against contractors who have 5 or
more open complaints.
18. Can MHIC force the contractor to come to my house to fix my problems?
No, the Commission does not have authority to order a contractor to return to a customer's home to
correct or complete a job. However, many times a contractor is willing to fix items in an effort to
resolve a homeowner's complaint. The Commission's authority is limited to issuing a fine to a contractor,
suspending or revoking a contractor's license (following a hearing), and in cases where the homeowner
has filed a claim against the Guaranty Fund, awarding a homeowner money from the Guaranty Fund.