Tip-offs to unlicensed contractor rip-offs
By SANDY GRIFFIS
Originally Published: December 31, 2009 10:04 p.m.
Recently, there was a heartbreaking news story on KYCA about an elderly gentleman being robbed of thousands of dollars by unlicensed "contractors." Citizens, these are hard times, and there are unscrupulous people trying to make a dollar by taking advantage of unsuspecting people. The people and families being deceived are your neighbors, your friends and relatives. Do not let this happen to you. YCCA receives calls weekly from homeowners who have been ripped off. You ask yourself, "What can we do?" Let us all be careful, even with the small things. Let's all engage and beware. Our goal at YCCA is to help you protect yourself with enough information and advice to avoid scams. Do not feel rushed into making agreements with contractors. It is in the best interest of both homeowners and legitimate, licensed contractors to protect homeowners from scams by unlicensed contractors. There are many reasons to use a licensed contractor, even if you think you can save a few dollars by accepting an unlicensed contractor's bid. It is cheap insurance using a licensed contractor. If the homeowner contracts with an unlicensed person or company, then the homeowner can be held liable for on-the-job injuries sustained by that unlicensed person's or company's employees. Sometimes even the homeowner's insurance will not cover this, all because the contractor is unlicensed. This exposes you, the homeowner, to liability you never dreamed of. Licensed contractors know their trade and have been tested and are bonded for this. They must post a bond, which is some monetary protection against violation. The Arizona Registrar of Contractors (ROC) will help investigate claims and disputes against licensed contractors at no cost to the homeowner. What has been happening lately is that scam contractors present credentials (license numbers, business cards, etc.) of legitimate licensed contractors, even though they are not affiliated with these businesses. Or the unlicensed contractor presents his license number, and the homeowner does not check this license number through YCCA, and the license has been revoked and/or suspended, and now the homeowner is doing work with an unlicensed contractor. From here, the scam contractor will try to get money upfront for work to be done. There will be excuses such as needing materials, supplies, etc. There may be promises of getting to the top of the list or discounts. Once the money is in their hands, you have lost! The best way to confirm that a contractor is licensed and is who he says he is is to call YCCA first before you hire. You should and can ask the contractor for proof of current liability and workers compensation insurance, and ask to see a current bond or call YCCA for a referral for quality, reliable contractors. Protect yourself, your family and friends. We are your trusted local contractors association and we are here to help you. It breaks my heart to receive calls after it is too late to help.It is also good practice when hiring a licensed contractor to make sure your contract contains at a minimum the following items: 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 date the owner and contractor signed the construction contract The estimated date of completion of the work A description of the work to be performed The total dollar amount to be paid to the contractor for all the work, including all taxes The dollar amount of any advance deposit paid or scheduled to be paid to the contractor by the owner The dollar amount and stage of construction for any progress payments to be made to the contractor Specific information, prominently displayed, explaining how to file a written complaint with the Registrar of Contractors.Here are 10 tip-offs to potential rip-offs to prevent you from being taken advantage of: 1) Scare tactics: Avoid the person who tries to "scare" you into doing business, even if the repair is urgent.2) Quick quotes for a job: Avoid the person who scribbles a price on a piece of paper or gives you a verbal quote. 3) No identification or business card: Avoid the person who says he ran out of business cards or forgot his ID.4) Refusal to give referrals: Avoid the person who says he keeps his customers' names private. 5) If someone uses pressure for an immediate decision, avoid him. 6) Avoid people in the neighborhood going door to door or who say they were working in the neighborhood and have leftover materials.7) Avoid people asking for upfront payment because "they have a lot of material to order."8) Avoid people who don't guarantee their work, but instead tell you, "If anything goes wrong, just give me a call."9) Avoid under-the-table deals and people who say, "Give me cash and I will make you a deal."10) Referral selling: Avoid people who tell you there is a big rebate if you refer customers. Yavapai County Contractors Association (YCCA) is a professional association representing licensed, bonded and insured contractors, suppliers, distributors and business entities. YCCA, your local trusted referral source, can be reached at 778-0040 or at www.ycca.org.Submit your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and watch for your answer in the weekly real estate section of the Daily Courier.