RELEASE: Protecting Maui’s Rebuilding: A Call for Vigilance in Contractor Hiring Amid Wildfire Aftermath

Posted on Feb 13, 2024 in Latest Department News, Newsroom












February 13, 2024

Protecting Maui’s Rebuilding:

A Call for Vigilance in Contractor Hiring Amid Wildfire Aftermath


HONOLULU — In the aftermath of the destructive Maui wildfires, homeowners are urged to exercise caution and prioritize hiring licensed contractors for rebuilding and repair projects. The Hawai‘i Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA) emphasizes the importance of choosing licensed professionals to ensure safety, adherence to building codes, and proper permit acquisition.

Now six months after the wildfires, the devastated communities are in the process of recovery and rebuilding with cranes, excavators, and bulldozers now clearing the lots. An estimated 3,971 properties were destroyed and approximately $1.23 billion in combined residential property and personal motor vehicle losses have been paid out by insurers. With ongoing claims processing, it remains imperative to prioritize the engagement of licensed contractors to ensure the continued success of the recovery efforts.

Incidents of cold-calling landowners, attempting to take advantage of their vulnerability, have been reported. Each year, DCCA receives hundreds of tips and complaints regarding unlicensed contractors. The complaints range from construction that has been poorly done, to money being taken and no work being done at all. Unlicensed contractors may also go door-to-door with deceptive or fraudulent claims to pressure consumers into procuring their services.

Penalties for unlicensed activity include fines, imprisonment, and injunctive relief. Given that a home is a substantial investment, it is crucial to invest time in research to hire a licensed contractor. The conduct of licensees as outlined in the Hawai‘i Administrative Rules, mandates reporting any unlawful activities to the Regulated Industries Complaints Office (RICO). In addition to legal responsibilities, engaging unlicensed individuals may jeopardize homeowners’ insurance policies, if claims arise from faulty work.

Introduced this session, Senate Bill 2977, would enhance penalties and require violations to be punished by a fine of not more than $10,000, imprisonment up to one year, or both, for unlicensed contracting caused by a natural disaster for which a state of emergency is proclaimed.

A comprehensive list of licensed contractors in the state and additional consumer tips and resources are available on the Licensed Contractor website at

The public can verify a contractor’s license by visiting This online tool provides information about licensed contractors, electricians, and plumbers, including license status, classifications, proof of insurance, and records of complaints.

Reasons to Hire a Licensed Contractor:


  • A contractor’s license is mandatory for projects exceeding $1,500 in labor and material or requiring a building, electrical or plumbing permit. Electrical and plumbing contractors must employ licensed electricians and plumbers to perform the actual electrical and plumbing work, respectively.

  • Hiring a licensed contractor ensures proper training, experience, background checks, and compliance with safety regulations.

  • Licensed contractors carry worker’s compensation and liability insurance, providing protection for homeowners against injuries or damage during the project.

  • Licensed contractors can obtain and sign building permits, and in case of issues, homeowners may access the Contractor’s Recovery Fund if a licensed contractor was hired.

Choosing the Right Contractor:


  • General Engineering (type “A”) for specialized engineering projects.

  • General Building (type “B”) for structures.

  • Specialty (type “C”) for specific skills like electrical work or roofing.

Key Considerations for Homeowners:


  • On-Site Verification: Licensed electricians and plumbers are mandated by law to visibly display their licenses while on the job, providing a tangible means of verification for homeowners.

  • Handyman: For smaller projects with a total cost, including labor and materials, not exceeding $1,500, homeowners have the option to hire a handyman. Typically, handymen undertake minor repairs and projects described as “odd jobs” or “fix-up tasks.” However, it’s important to note that handymen without a contractor’s license should refrain from working on projects that:
    • Exceed $1,500 in total cost,
    • Require a building, electrical, or plumbing permit,
    • Involve electrical work,
    • Involve plumbing work.

  • Penalties for Unlicensed Activity: Engaging in unlicensed contracting, especially for projects exceeding the defined limits, carries serious consequences for contractors. Homeowners are strongly advised to be cautious and to consider hiring a licensed professional regardless of the project’s cost.

  • Reporting of Unlicensed Activity: If you come across a person or business that is engaged in or offering to do contracting work but you discover that the person or business does not hold a contractor’s license, notify the Regulated Industries Complaints Office at 808-587-4272 or submit a complaint online at


Media Contact:

William Nhieu

Communications Officer
Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs
[email protected]

Phone: 808-586-7582