Every time a homeowner gets taken by a contractor here in RI the local media paint the regulations as the problem. Rhode Island actually has some of the toughest contractor regulations in the country. Unfortunately, by the time a shady contractor gets caught, he/she has already defrauded several other owners, and the media and politicians call for more regulations.
Rhode Island doesn't have a license procedure yet for general contractors but, unlike most states, everyone who does work in a house must be registered with the Contractors Registration and Licensing Board (CRLB)—painters, tile setters, drapery hangers, siding installers, masons, roofers, gutter installers, framers, drywall hangers, flooring...
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