Ask the Contractor: cleaning hacks, leaning tree, money

Cleaning tips, tree trimming, Recovery Fund

My husband likes to cook and spatter the grease on the walls and appliances and countertops surrounding the stove. Do you have any cleaning hacks that might help with quick removal?

— Lois, Prescott Valley

Grease, grime, gunk and goo, the stuff that cannot be wiped up with hot water for sure. We are going to take our cleaning hacks a little farther today and reach out onto walls as well.

Grease for sure is an occupational hazard of cooking. Why does it always manage to find its way onto our walls, side of the refrigerator, countertops and into that little space between the stove and the counter?

The good news is that any decent dish soap with hot water can remove grease stains on walls. Wipe the area with soap and water then rinse with clean water and dry. For those really stubborn grease spots, use one-third cup household vinegar with two-thirds cup water and rub.

For those grease/oil from our hands that gets onto walls, cabinets, doors, and door frames, use 1 cup ammonia, one-half cup white distilled or apple cider vinegar, one-quarter cup baking soda and 1 gallon of warm water and wipe the area with a sponge and then rise with clean water. Works like a champ.

For crayon on walls, rub the marks with toothpaste (not gel) or try erasing the marks with an art gum or a pencil eraser; use a circular motion. I even used baby wipes once when lipstick flew from my hand and hit the wall. I heard that sprinkling baking soda on a damp sponge and scrub marks works wonders as well.

For permanent markers, soak a cotton ball with rubbing alcohol and dab the stain. Or spray marks with hairspray and then dab the marks. Did you know ballpoint ink, which is oil-based, often melts away if you use foaming shaving cream or nail polish remover?

Our neighbors’ tree is leaning over on our property and looks like it could fall any second. Can we take it down or what if it falls?

— Ed and Nancy, Highland Pines

Before the tree falls, you should immediately write a letter to your neighbor before the diseased or leaning tree falls over on your roof or onto your property and does damage. The letter should include:

The description of the problem, photographs and request that they take immediate action to resolve the hazardous situation. You should also send a copy of the correspondence to your insurance company. Did you know that if the tree limbs hang over your property line, you may trim the branches up to the property line — but you cannot CUT DOWN THE ENTIRE TREE or touch branches or limbs on the property where the tree is planted. I have seen several situations where this issue has been very neighborly and the neighbor with the tree has offered to pay for trimming of the tree which has affected the other neighbor’s lot.

We hired a licensed contractor from out of the area, a friend of a friend and we have a major construction issue. We were told we could file for the Recovery Fund. What does that mean?

— Ed and Susan, Cottonwood

The state of Arizona requires all licensed residential contractors to provide financial protection to their customers. The protections apply whether you buy a new home, remodel, build a swimming pool or have a new roof put on your home.

In order to obtain a license, a residential contractor must post a cash deposit or surety bond of $4,250.00 to $15,000.00. In addition, a residential contractor must either pay into the recovery fund or post a second bond of $200,000.00. The vast majority of residential contractors have chosen to participate in the fund. Therefore, there are actually two programs offering financial protection.

The Recovery Fund is a form of financial protection provided by licensed Arizona residential contractors to residential homeowners. The Recovery Fund is governed by statute and available only to persons who own and occupy, or intend to occupy, class three residential property. The Recovery Fund does not accept claims from suppliers, subcontractors, laborers or other commercial entities.

In order to be deemed eligible for recovery from the Fund, you must submit documentation to demonstrate that you meet the following requirements:

The contractor’s residential or dual license must have been suspended or revoked as a direct result of a formal complaint filed by you against the contractor’s license. (This requirement does not apply to civil Recovery Fund claims filed pursuant to A.R.S. § 32-1136.) A.R.S. § 32-1154.G.

Prior to filing a claim with the Residential Contractors’ Recovery Fund, you must first have filed a claim against the contractor’s license bond and received a final determination in regard to that claim.

The contractor must be a licensed residential contractor.

The claimant must be the owner of a class three residential property and have occupied, or intended to occupy, the residence at the time of the contract (or at the time the injury accrued) to be a “person injured” as defined by statute. A.R.S. § 32-1131.3.

The contractor must have been licensed and in good standing with the Registrar of Contractors at the time of the contract. An award from the Recovery Fund shall not be available to persons injured by a residential contractor whose license was in an inactive, expired, cancelled, revoked, suspended or not issued status at the time of the contract. A.R.S. § 32-1132.A.

The claim must be filed within the relevant two-year statute of limitations, as follows:

In an administrative Recovery Fund claim, the administrative complaint must be filed within two years of close of escrow or actual occupancy (whichever occurred first) of a new structure or completion of remodel/repair. A.R.S. § 32-1155.A.

In a civil Recovery Fund claim, the civil complaint must be filed with the court within two years from the date of the commission of the act by the contractor that is the cause of the injury or two years from the date of occupancy. A.R.S. § 32-1136.A.

If I am eligible, how is an award from the Fund calculated?

The claimant must have incurred “actual damages” defined as those damages suffered as a direct result of a contractor’s violation to qualify for an award from the Fund. The calculation done by the Registrar attempts to make you ‘whole’ on the contract; that is, to put you in the position you would have been in after full payment on, and full performance of, the underlying contract. Alternatively, if you paid the contractor a deposit to do a project and the contractor did not perform any work or deliver any materials, then we may only award you a refund of your deposit paid to the contractor, essentially rescinding the contract. A.R.S. § 32-1132.A.

The Recovery Fund does not guarantee payment to anyone. If you are found to be eligible for a payment from the Fund, you can recover a maximum of $30,000 per residence. An award shall not exceed an amount necessary to complete or repair the project. The maximum payout per residential contractor’s license is $200,000. Once $200,000 in claims has been dispersed, no further payments from the Fund against that contractor’s license shall be allowed. A.R.S. §§ 32-1132.A and 32-1139.A.

Remember to tune in to YCCA’s Hammer Time every Saturday and Sunday morning at 7 a.m. on KQNA 1130 AM/99.9 FM or 95.5 FM or the web kqna.com. Listen to Sandy and Mike talk about the construction industry; meet your local community partners and so much more. It is a great way to start your weekend.