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Mon, June 17

State Registrar of Contractors is on the lookout for unlicensed firms

PHOENIX – The Arizona Registrar of Contractors (ROC) is conducting statewide undercover sting operations to catch construction, repair or remodeling companies doing business without a license. Penalties for unlicensed contracting could include civil citations issued by the ROC or criminal complaints filed with local prosecutors.

"With an increased number of Arizonans contracting for home repair, remodeling or construction during this time of year, we're reminding residents of the risks associated with hiring someone without a license. We want to stop unlicensed work before it starts," said ROC Director Israel G. Torres. "By conducting undercover stings statewide, we will help prevent crimes against Arizona residents and protect homeowners."

Ethan Edwards, executive director of the Yavapai County Contractors Association, serves on a subcommittee that advises ROC on unlicensed contractor activities.

For the sting operations, ROC investigators currently are targeting unlicensed contractors who advertise their services to the general public and have not disclosed their unlicensed status. During the course of an undercover operation, ROC investigators meet with these unlicensed individuals and describe the type of work that needs to be done. After each one submits a proposal, the ROC investigator schedules another meeting with the unlicensed contractor to advise him/her of the operation and the violations committed. At that time, the ROC issues a civil citation or the matter is referred to the appropriate jurisdiction for the issuance of a criminal complaint. If the unlicensed contractor fails to attend the follow-up meeting, the matter is automatically referred to the appropriate court for criminal prosecution.

In Arizona, a contractor must be licensed with the ROC to legally perform jobs that require a building permit or when the total project cost (including all labor and materials) is $750 or more. Using the ROC as a resource, Arizona consumers can determine if a contractor holds a current license, is in good standing or is suspended, has a complaint history, or is working with a revoked license. In fiscal year 2003, the public paid unlicensed contractors more than $25 million of their hard-earned money related to the 2,623 unlicensed complaints filed during that same period.

By hiring only Arizona-licensed contractors, consumers have more options and recourse should something go wrong with their home improvement or construction project. For example, homeowners who use licensed contractors may qualify for assistance through the ROC's Residential Contractors' Recovery Fund. This fund helps homeowners cover the costs of correcting faulty workmanship performed by licensed contractors. By hiring someone without a license, a homeowner forfeits his or her ability to submit a claim to the Recovery Fund or to have the ROC require the worker to correct faulty work.

"The sting operations are just the beginning of our efforts to convey the message that unlicensed and unscrupulous contracting is illegal in Arizona and will be punished. Unlicensed contractors should use the ROC as a resource and get licensed," Torres said. "We provide instruction and assistance for contractors to become licensed. The ROC's new Small Business Advocate program helps workers and companies meet the necessary requirements to do just that."

The ROC regulates construction contractors in the state by providing a licensing and regulatory system for residential and commercial contractors designed to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public. Additionally, the ROC offers financial protection to residential consumers who use licensed contractors through its Residential Contractors' Recovery Fund. Established in 1931, the ROC operates 11 offices statewide.

For more information about the agency or the undercover stings, call 602-542-1525 or toll-free statewide outside Maricopa County at 888-271-9286 or visit www.rc.state.az.us.

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