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Thu, Oct. 17

Follow these tips to avoid being scammed by unlicensed contractors

The battered economy has brought forth an onslaught of unlicensed home-improvement contractors who are pouncing on homeowners in need of help. Our industry is faced with unprecedented growth of would-be contractors, or even formerly legitimate contractors who claim to still be licensed when in fact their license has expired or been revoked or suspended. In spite of the fact that many of these "companies" lack sufficient capital and experience, they print up flyers, distribute business cards and place ads in the yellow pages and newspapers. In an attempt to get the best price, you, the unsuspecting consumer, call these numbers and ask for a bid. Now the problem starts.

One of the largest issues facing our community now is false credentials. This is the latest scam among fly-by-night contractors. These people are using license numbers that belong to other contractors, and salesmen are representing themselves as a company employee when in fact they have not been employed with the firm for several years. They are taking cash and offering discounts, never to be seen again.

There has been a rash of contractors falsely claiming to be licensed. This has come to light when issues have arisen from the job. The unsuspecting consumer is now faced with huge issues that are often very costly.

You may be saying to yourself, 'This sounds ridiculous.' Well, it happens every day with you, the citizens of Yavapai County, losing thousands of dollars.

The majority of licensed contractors are competent, honest, hardworking and responsible. YCCA is always operating to be proactive against unlicensed contractors and we address these issues making sure our community and citizens are safe and well-protected against the bad guys. We do not want you to experience a bad homebuilding/remodelling experience, so we recommend the following steps.

• Always make sure you use a licensed contractor. Ask for a copy of the license, and ask the contractor to show you a driver's license and compare the names. Call YCCA before signing any contract; we can verify the license status and name. If it is a company representative you are working with, call the company to verify that he is an employee. Make sure you know what the expiration date is on the license. In Arizona, the license must be renewed every two years.

• Make sure the contractor has general liability insurance and workers compensation. These types of insurance protect you and your home from any damage or negligence by the contractor. Also, make sure that all subcontractors working on your project have insurance and are properly licensed and current. It is your right to ask to see proof of any documents. Call the insurance carrier to confirm coverage. Just this week, a general liability certificate was doctored to indicate that proof of coverage was current, when in fact the policy had been cancelled several months ago. This was discovered when the homeowner called YCCA to confirm the license status. A call was made to the insurance carrier and it was confirmed there was no coverage in place.

It's not only a violation to use someone' else's license, but it's illegal to allow someone else to use yours. So the state needs to know when a legitimate Arizona contractor is allowing someone else to pass himself off as licensed. Write down the name and ID number from the contractor's license and report the incident to the Registrar of Contractors (www.azroc.gov).

• Ask your contractor to provide you with lien waivers. These are documents that say you have paid the contractor in progress payments and in full at the end of the job. A good contractor will also provide you with lien waivers from any subcontractors working on the project.

• Make sure your contractor pulls all applicable building permits. This is your assurance that your home and/or remodel project will be built to code. If a contractor asks you to pull the building permits, this is a red flag, and could mean they are not licensed.

• Be cautious of paying any money in advance, especially in cash. Do not pay in cash, and be cautious of hiring a contractor just because you are getting a "sweet deal."

• Stick with the contractors who do what they're supposed to when it comes to licensing, insurance and honest work. Contractors who respect the law are much more likely to respect you, your home and the agreements they make with you. Call YCCA before you hire. YCCA is designed to assist homeowners and contractors, and we want to make sure that you the consumer are protected.

Yavapai County Contractors Association (YCCA) is a professional association representing licensed, bonded and insured contractors, suppliers, distributors and business entities. Call YCCA for information on hiring a contractor at 778-0040.

Submit questions to ycca@cableone.net or through www.ycca.org.

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