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Vermont's secretary of state says new contractor registry will help with flood recovery

A photo of a blonde white woman in a red shirt and black sweater
Elodie Reed
Vermont Public
Vermont Secretary of State Sarah Copeland Hanzas.

Many Vermont homeowners face the daunting task of rebuilding after last month’s floods. Contractors are in extra-high demand – but finding someone reputable can be really difficult in a competitive market.

Coincidentally, this year Vermont began regulating home contractors – and the Secretary of State’s Office has created an online map of contractors who have registered with the state and paid a fee. Vermonters can use the map to find someone local.

“For the last couple weeks, we have some pockets of Vermont where there are a lot of people who are really scrambling to find contractors to come in and help them remove flooded material and lay down new flooring and sheetrock,” said Secretary of State Sarah Copeland Hanzas, speaking on Vermont Edition on Tuesday.

Registered contractors are required to have minimum liability insurance and to pay a registration fee.

For now, the registry map only shows basic information such as the contractor’s location and name.

When Vermont’s contractor registry law is fully implemented, consumers will be able to see whether a contractor has faced disciplinary action by state authorities. There are also plans to show whether a contractor has special certifications or training.

Though some smaller contractors have chafed at the requirement — for example, a contractor who called into Vermont Edition said it would only impose more bureaucracy on upstanding contractors — Copeland Hanzas said it was a relatively low level of regulation compared to other states.

“We don’t have enforceable building codes in Vermont, so there isn’t an enforceable standard to which a contractor would be held, as they might be in another state,” Copeland Hanzas said. “So we are really trying this on in the spirit of, ‘Let’s do the lightest touch of regulation that we need to to accomplish that consumer protection that we talked about.’”

The Secretary of State’s Office does not mediate disputes between homeowners and contractors. Copeland Hanzas advised that anyone trying to recoup money from a contractor should contact the Consumer Assistance Program at the Attorney General’s Office.

Copeland Hanzas also spoke with Vermont Edition host Mikaela Lefrak about a recent open letter to Gov. Phil Scott that urges him to take decisive action on climate change.

She said the decision by Scott and other members of the money-focused Emergency Board this week to use $10 million to help Vermonters make efficiency upgrades during flood recovery was “a good first step.”

More aggressive work is needed to meet the legally-required 2030 emissions targets, Copeland Hanzas said.

For more information on Vermont’s residential contractor registry:

Broadcast at noon Tuesday, August 1, 2023; rebroadcast at 7 p.m.

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Mikaela Lefrak is the host and senior producer of Vermont Edition. Her stories have aired nationally on Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition, Marketplace, The World and Here & Now. A seasoned local reporter, Mikaela has won two regional Edward R. Murrow awards and a Public Media Journalists Association award for her work.
Andrea Laurion joined Vermont Public as a news producer for Vermont Edition in December 2022. She is a native of Pittsburgh, Pa., and a graduate of the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Portland, Maine. Before getting into audio, Andrea worked as an obituary writer, a lunch lady, a wedding photographer assistant, a children’s birthday party hostess, a haunted house actor, and an admin assistant many times over.