558 N. Main St., Prineville, OR 97754 | (541) 447-6205
The pitfalls of unlicensed contractors
Homeowners should be aware of the consequences of hiring contractors who do not have a valid CCB license
This house is an example of why consumers should be aware of unlicensed contractors. The roof on this house was not done properly, and the roof blew off, piece by piece. The homeowner was fortunate in that community members helped them repair the roof, but if the unlicensed contractor had been hurt on the job, the homeowner would have been liable.
November 26, 2012
The fallout from unlicensed contractors in Prineville brings to mind the pitfalls and consequences of hiring such labor.
Recurring incidents of unfinished jobs and contractors without the proper bonding and licensing has prompted some local licensed contractors to speak out about the issue.
Local Contractor Travis Vail said that many unlicensed contractors are individuals who were once licensed, but have not renewed, or contractors who were never licensed before. They often bid the job for half the price — which to a homeowner sounds appealing. Some don’t finish the job, or they leave the homeowner with a mess that never gets resolved.
Vail emphasized that consumers should also be aware that if an unlicensed contractor gets hurt on the job, the homeowner is liable for any injuries. They could get sued, because that is part of the reason for being licensed through the Construction Contractor’s Board (CCB). They are required to carry liability insurance and to have Workman’s Compensation on the workers on the project.
“I think that homeowners aren’t aware of the risk they are taking, as far as having an unlicensed contractor on their premises,” remarked Vail.
“We have a board just like doctors have boards and teachers have boards,” he said of the CCB. “If you don’t finish your continuing education, they won’t renew you, and you have to have all your certificates.”
Neil Chaney, also a local licensed contractor, said that homeowners can be blindsided by an issue that results from the work of an unlicensed contractor, because many times they don’t find out that the contractor is not legitimate until there is a problem.
“The best thing a homeowner can do is to bring those people up on the CCB website and check everyone before they start the job,” commented Chaney.
He added that if a contractor advertises in the phone book or hands out an invoice, they are supposed to provide their contract license number.
“Any advertisement, you should be advertising your license number on, and anyone who wants to can look you up by the business owner’s name or the business name on the CCB website, to see if there are any claims filed against you,” he he noted.
According to the CCB website, there are several considerations to keep in mind when choosing a contractor for a job. First, the homeowner should check with the CCB before asking for bids and entering into any agreements with a contractor. They should always check to see if the contractor is actively licensed. They should also check for any history of complaints associated with their license. These items can both be checked through the CCB website.
“Anyone can check on whether someone is licensed or legitimate,” noted Vail.
Furthermore, get more than one bid from a licensed contractor before making a decision, and don’t automatically accept the lowest bid. Always ask for references, and check with previous customers.
Checking on a contractor’s license can tell the consumer whether the contractor is actively licensed, whether he/she had liability insurance at the time of application or renewal, and whether they submitted information that proved that they carried Workman’s Compensation to protect their workers on the project. Checking on their license can also tell a consumer whether there was a breach of contract complaint filed in the past seven years or whether there were disciplinary actions against the business.
One of the pitfalls that Vail said that many homeowners fall into is trying to go with the cheapest way to get the job done. He does a lot of high-end decks, and often comes across jobs that have to be redone because the homeowner hired an unlicensed contractor who didn’t do a good job or didn’t finish the job. He said that any job over $2,000 requires a written contract.
The CCB recommends that one of the best ways to avoid construction disputes is to negotiate and follow a well-written construction contract. Most construction disputes can be traced back to the parties’ failure to write, understand, and follow a well-written contract.
“As big as Prineville is on supporting local, support the legal, local contractors,” exclaimed Vail.
What to know about a contract
A well-written construction contract includes:
• Full name and CCB license number of the general contractor as it appears on the CCB website.
• Full name of the owner, the job address, and contact information such as phone numbers.
• A detailed description of the scope of construction work
• List of specific building materials to be used in the project.
• Start and completion dates.
• Total price of the project, including labor and materials, and a payment schedule.
• List of allowance items (lighting, fixtures, plumbing fixtures, appliances, etc.) and the budgeted amount, if any.
• List of required permits, including who will be responsible for obtaining them.
• Agreement that any changes to the contract will only be done upon written “change orders” signed by both the contractor and the homeowner.
• Signature of both parties to the contract.