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I've seen this question but it's a few years old and isn't specific to a state.

I am past the inspection stage on a potential new house and the seller wants to use a certain plumber to do some repairs. They forwarded me an estimate and the plumber's address comes up as a residence. I realize that doesn't necessarily mean much, but Googling the business name also yields no results. Does the state of Pennsylvania maintain a searchable online database of licensed contractors in the state, so I can see if this plumber is in fact licensed and insured in PA (specifically, the city of Philadelphia)?

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It turns out that licensing for plumbers (and other contractors) in the city of Philadelphia is separate from whatever licensing concerns the rest of the state of Pennsylvania. I ended up calling the city's 311 information line and they were able to search their database of licenses for me (it turns out this guy is not licensed).

The city does maintain an online database of licensed professionals of several types (including plumbers) here: http://www.phila.gov/li/Pages/FindLicensedProfessional.aspx. But from what I was told by the city, that list is not comprehensive, only contractors who agree to appear there show up. So if someone is listed there, they are definitely licensed, but if they aren't listed, that doesn't necessarily mean they are not licensed. For a definitive answer, you need to call the city's 311 line.

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A contractor being licensed is one thing but likely does not give an immediate indication of work quality. But a whole lot more can come from references. Ask for references and then contact them to see what they thought of the contractor and quality of work performed.

Do keep in mind that references are not going to be offered from previous clients that the contractor had problems with so you still have to take what you hear with a grain of salt.

  • Thanks, at this point I can't even verify that this guy is licensed. Really, apart from the estimate, I have no proof that the business even exists. Mainly I want to establish his license status because the sellers have been dodgy about a few things so far. – Dan C Feb 18 '15 at 16:38
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Are plumbers even licensed in PA? There's a website to look up professional licenses (many states have similar sites): http://www.licensepa.state.pa.us but there's no category for "plumber".

Being bonded and insured is another matter... mostly for liability, not legal permission.

You could also check 3rd party websites like Angie's list or the Better Business Bureau, but of course those are not official sources and are subject to all kinds of biases.

EDIT:

Looks like I was wrong. In PA, Master Plumber licenses are done by the city, not the state. You might have to call Philadelphia city hall since I can't find a license lookup online.

  • Thanks, I did end up calling the city and will post what I found as an answer momentarily. Spoiler alert: the guy isn't licensed to do anything in the city. – Dan C Feb 18 '15 at 16:57
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In the midwest in most towns the plumber and electricians would be licensed in each town. I would simply call town hall and ask them if this person is licensed there. Beyond that the easiest way to check the quality of work or liability is the inspection report. If the city didn't inspect the work than it wasn't licensed. If they did and signed off on it their inspector shares blame with plumber.

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