1) Provide the legal definition of the occupation, including the existing legal scope of practice, where appropriate.
Michigan law required, until March 2019, an occupational license for “painting and decorating” under its broader “maintenance and alteration” license. The law specified the fees and educational mandates required of licensees, but did not provide a definition of the occupation. The statute did specify that a person could do “incidental and supplemental” work without needing a license, and that the regulation does not apply to projects valued under $600, counting the costs of labor and materials.
2) How many people are licensed in this occupation in Michigan and how has this changed over the years? Does the law appear to be enforced?
According to LARA, there were 425 people with a painting and decorating license in Michigan, as of May 2017. The number of new licenses per year wavered between 15 and 30 from 2007 to 2018. But also in May 2017, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were about 4,000 people in the state who defined their occupation as painter. This suggests that most of the painting work done in Michigan is completed by unlicensed painters. And this does not account for all the painting that is done by homeowners themselves or by volunteers.
The law appears to be rarely enforced. While it is legal for unlicensed painters to be employed by someone with a license, the large disparity between the number of licensed painters and people who consider painting their occupation suggests that there were hundreds, or even thousands, of painters working illegally. In addition, public records requests to LARA asking for complaints about painters over a two-year period yielded no results. There was news coverage of complaints of one company allegedly using unlicensed painters, but the multiple issues and complaints were solved by the attorney general’s office rather than Michigan’s licensing agency.
3) How many other states license this occupation? If possible, find data for state licensure of the occupation nationwide for the previous 10 years.
The licensing of painters was very rare a decade ago but has become more common. A national review found only 10 states that licensed residential painters in 2012, but that number increased to 28 states by 2017. In the Midwest, however, this license remains rare. Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin do not require painters to be licensed.
4) Compare the licensing requirements to a sample of requirements from other states that also license the occupation.
Michigan required painters to pay a $195 application fee and then a $150 renewal fee every three years. A person would also have to complete a 60-hour educational course and pass an exam, each costing more than $100.
These mandates were more than what most states require. Only four other states mandate any educational courses, with Michigan having required the most. Other states allow for apprentice time to meet a level of experience, meaning people can start working without a license if they are on their way to earning one.
5) Inquire of the state licensing board about the volume and type of health or safety complaints filed by consumers in relation to the occupation in question.
The number of health and safety complaints is minimal. The state provides disciplinary action reports by occupation, and a review of the documents for 2016 and 2017 found no complaints specifically about painters.
A news report discusses one painting company that has had a series of complaints, including nine over three years to the Better Business Bureau, earning them an F ranking. Six complaints against the company were filed with the state attorney general, with four of them being dismissed or settled. A licensing complaint was also filed with LARA. The alleged problems, however, were over disputes about cost and work getting done and was resolved by law enforcement. Complaints directly related to health and safety could not be found.
6) Are there similar occupations that have significantly different licensing requirements?
In Michigan law, there are a variety of occupations that the state defines as “maintenance and alteration” contractors. Many do not require a state license in Michigan, such as workers who build a fence, install vinyl floors, put up drywall, pave with asphalt or move a house.
7) Is there a difference in liability insurance costs between unlicensed occupations and licensed ones?
It does not appear that liability insurance is less expensive in states that do not require painters to be licensed. There are companies that insure contractors across the country and track state licensing laws. When one of these companies was asked if they charge higher rates in states that do not license painters, they said that rates do not differ based on state licensing laws. This suggests that, according to the market for liability insurance, unlicensed painters pose no greater threat to public health and safety than licensed ones.