Daily, my phone rings with calls from residents within our community asking about contractors. Homeowners want to check the status of a license, they ask for referrals and guidance prior to hiring a contractor and then there are the callers who need help, they have been hoodwinked, taken advantage of, overcharged or have experienced shoddy workmanship and have even experienced the contractor that has disappeared in the middle of a project.
There is no shortage of contractor horror stories relating to both licensed and unlicensed contractors throughout the State of Arizona. Licensing is not necessarily a measure of competence, skill, proficiency and ability. However, being licensed does involve financial obligations in order to maintain a license such as retaining the appropriate insurance and bonding requirements, all of which are avenues of protection for the homeowner.
Many of our local licensed contractors find themselves competing with unlicensed contractors because working outside the licensed regulation box costs a lot less; therefore, unlicensed contractors are able to underbid jobs because they do not pay taxes, they do not have proper insurance, they possibly work out of their truck and they perform work outside the scope of a qualified licensed contractor.
Unlicensed usually means uninsured. Using uninsured contractors means the contractor has no way to reimburse you for any property damage. Likewise, if the contractor causes injury or damage to someone else’s property, the problem is likely to become yours. If the contractor is injured, his healthcare could potentially become your issue.
Most building projects, even minor ones, require building permits and inspections. Unlicensed contractors are often unfamiliar with the applicable building codes and even more importantly, an unlicensed contractor cannot obtain a permit. If a contractor asks you to pull the building permit – beware! It is possible they are asking you to do this because they are unlicensed. If you use an unlicensed contractor for work that requires a building permit and does not comply with building codes, you will probably be ordered to either remove the structure or bring it up to code. You will almost certainly have to correct the issue if and when you try to sell your home.
Not all unlicensed contractors do poor quality work, and not all poor quality work is done by unlicensed contractors. While there are certainly honest and competent contractors in our area, the industry is unfortunately plagued with con artists and scams. It is essentially up to you to protect yourself when hiring.
Here are some red flags:
– Watch out for unsolicited phone calls or mailers saying it is time to schedule an inspection. Although some reputable contractors market their services this way, it is more often than not used by companies trying to make an appointment to get an in to your home. Be wary of bargain prices and companies claiming they are doing a job in your neighborhood and they have left over material and will sell to you at a discounted price.
– If there is no verifiable address or phone number, this is a concern. Be cautious of paperwork that uses a P.O. Box or a cell phone number. Use of cell phones is an easy way to get “boots on the ground” representatives to look like they are local companies, when in fact most of them are from outside the area.
– Be mindful of high-pressure sales pitches and scare tactics. Do not be forced into a contract by the words “today only” or that your home has a safety issue.
– Large down payments are another concern. If the contractor asks for CASH or a large deposit, this is a red flag.
– Anyone can say they are licensed. MAKE THE CONTRACTOR PROVE IT! Ask for a copy of their Arizona State License or call YCCA to confirm. In Arizona, a license must be renewed every two years.
– Arizona Statutory Law ARS 32-1158 requires that all construction contracts over $1,000 contain at a minimum the following information:
The name and business address of the contractor
The contractor’s license number
The name and mailing address of the owner
The jobsite address or legal description
The sate the owner and contractor signed the construction contract
The estimated completion date of the project
A full detailed description of work to be performed
The total dollar amount of work including all taxes
The amount of any advance deposit or scheduled payments to the contractor
The property owner has the right to file a written complaint with the registrar for an alleged violation…the contract shall contain the registrar’s phone number, website address and shall state that complaints must be made within the applicable time period as set forth in section 32-1155, subsection A.
Don’t be a victim. YCCA is extremely proud to be a part of this community and work for you. Remember, “Don’t Start Without Us!” Call YCCA for information on hiring a contractor at 928-778-0040. QCBN
Written by Sandy Griffis
Tune in every Saturday and Sunday morning, 7:00 am Talk of The Quad Cities KQNA 1130 AM, 99.9 FM or the web kqna.com for YCCA and Hammer Time. This is more than just a local program, it is our local community members talking about construction and sharing their knowledge with you It is a great show, great fun so tune in and we will see you on the radio.