Homeowners who are looking to make improvements to their property are excited to consider designs, material and final project completion timelines. However, it is important to make certain all improvements are done to code, which starts with obtaining permits, and possibly hiring a bonded and licensed contractor to complete the work. Because homeowners don't typically go through this process very often, it can be difficult knowing where to start. This Q & A provides a broad overview to get you started on the right path to a successful project completion.
Q: If I am going to do any work in my home or yard, where can I go to find out what requires a county permit?
A: For a list of projects requiring permits, visit the Prince William County Department of Development Services Do I Need a Permit? webpage. If your project is not listed on the Department of Development Services webpage please call 703-792-6924 for clarification. Please note that there may be requirements that need to be met before permits are issued. Some of those requirements include obtaining zoning approval and meeting building code requirements. Also, if your home is part of a homeowners association (HOA), then be sure to check with them for approval as they may have restrictive covenants regarding the exterior of the home.
Q: Do I have to have a contractor complete the work or can I do it myself?
A: Homeowner can complete the work themselves. However, the project still must be completed to code, and permits are still required. Depending on the scope of work, homeowners may consider use of an experienced contractor with knowledge and experience of meeting building code requirements.
Q: Which contractors require a license to do work in Prince William County?
A: License requirements vary according to the price of the work to be completed. See the complete breakdown at the department's Home Improvement Contractor Licenses webpage.
Q: What should I look for on the license? How do I verify that the license is valid?
A: A contractor's license is a wallet-sized card with pertinent information that contractors should be ready to present at any time. For questions about a contractor's license and whether it has been revoked, or if there have been complaints against the contractor call the following numbers:
Q: Who must obtain the permit?
A: Homeowners hiring a contractor will negotiate whether the contractor or the homeowner will be responsible for obtaining the permit. If the homeowner is picking up the permit, they will need a copy of the contractor's state license and Prince William County business license to obtain the permit. Homeowners who are doing the work themselves can come in person to obtain a permit. For more information visit development services Who Should Apply webpage.
Q: If I have a permit and the contractor is licensed, bonded and insured, and still something doesn't go right, can I seek help from Prince William County?
A: The Prince William County Department of Development Services does not have the authority to resolve disputes between customers and contractors. Visit the Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation, or DPOR, website for more information. File a complaint at DPOR's File a Complaint webpage.
Q: Should contractors be bonded and insured? What does it mean to be bonded and insured? If they should be bonded and insured, how do I verify that they are bonded and insured?
A: To be bonded and insured means contractors have the proper insurance and have made payments to a surety company for protection by a bond. The insurance company or surety company will be responsible for covering any financial losses. Ask the contractor to provide the information prior to signing the contract, or contact DPOR.
Q: If a contractor accomplishes the work with colleagues or a team of workers, what do I need to know about each person performing work? Does each one need a license? Does each one need to be bonded and insured?
A: The license requirements for contractors are established by the Virginia DPOR. Depending on the scope of work, a Virginia State Contractor's License may be required for each person performing work or the general contractors license may be sufficient. You may verify that a contractor has a Virginia State Contractor's License at the DPOR website. Prince William County requires all Virginia State Contractor Class "C" License holders to obtain a $10,000 Home Improvement Contractors Surety Bond. All other Virginia State Contractor License holders are subject to DPOR's requirements for insurance and bonding.