Licensed vs. Un-Licensed Contractors - Woodworking Talk - Woodworkers Forum
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post #1 of 14 Old 03-29-2020, 07:09 PM Thread Starter
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Licensed vs. Un-Licensed Contractors

In California, being and unlicensed contractor constitutes a fine in the neighborhood of $10,000. In California the state license board is sneaky. I had someone appear at my shop (garage) wanting kitchen cabinets. He was really pissed when I told him that I can't because I'm not a licensed contractor. As he drove away I noticed his license plates were "exempt". Meaning that it was a state vehicle.

In California, when you hire a LICENSED contractor, there are numerous implications.
1 ~ The contractor has a bond. Should the contractor abscond with your money, you can file a claim and be reimbursed from the bond.
2 ~ The contractor is required to carry Workman Compensation Insurance to protect the employees on the job site. If the contractor is unlicensed, YOU are the Workman Compensation Insurance carrier. It becomes your responsibility for any injuries incurred during the job. And, no, your home insurance will not cover this liability.
3 ~ Just the contractor being licensed the liabilities are removed from you and placed upon the contractor. Just being licensed, most liabilities are laid at the door of the contractor and not your door.

The above are California restrictions and liabilities. Your state of province may be different but should be similar.

There is one other thing about licensing. Generally speaking, licensed contractors are reputable. It is doubtful that they will grossly under bid a job and follow on with add on work, or expensive "additions". While it is possible that a job is underestimated, it is usually because of an undiscovered damage for necessary additional work.

As Mike Holmes pointed out, an unlicensed contractor can not put a lien on your property. (Especially in California.) If they try, the response is, "They are operating an illegal business."

So in summary my friends, Please go with a licensed contractor. Engaging a licensed contractor gives you more legal protections than imaginable. When it is all done and complete the total cost probably is probably less than going with an unlicensed contractor.

And for the record, I am not a contractor, I never will be a contractor, I have no interest in any contracting firm, I am not associated with any organization that supports contractors and I am not associated with any governmental agency.

Rich
In furniture 1/32" is a Grand Canyon

Last edited by NoThankyou; 03-29-2020 at 07:12 PM.
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post #2 of 14 Old 03-29-2020, 11:00 PM
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Verify the bond. It is very important.

Some years ago, someone in our family contracted for bamboo flooring throughout most of their home. It was a big job. The licensed contractor was bonded, of course.

The bamboo boards started cupping soon after the job was done. The cupping quickly got worse and worse, to the point where it was dangerous to walk on the floor. During the time when the floor was literally coming apart, the contractor died. Soon after, everyone learned that he had not renewed the bond when it expired during the job. Nobody knows why.
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post #3 of 14 Old 03-30-2020, 10:15 AM
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As TA has aptly noted, "Licensed" has nothing to do with quality of work. In some cases it only means they have paid a fee to the state and maybe passed a minimal test related to their industry.

Fortunately now we can at least vet using reviews.

Robert
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post #4 of 14 Old 03-30-2020, 12:11 PM
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agreed. licensed has nothing to do with quality, reliability or ability. i've hired contractors will all the right papers and had a crap job done. i've also hired craigslist 'contractors' that i hire again and recommend to neighbors
i was an licensed electrical contract for years, have since let my license go. i limit myself to helping homeowners anymore. no contract, no license, no bond and typically no pay; same quality work
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post #5 of 14 Old 03-30-2020, 01:12 PM
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Do your research, ask you friends and neighbours, nothing is better than a personal referral. There are situations when you may need to use a licensed contractor to meet local codes but you still have to check them out. Get more than one quote, it is usually pretty easy to see who is on the up and up.

Wise men speak because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something -Plato

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post #6 of 14 Old 04-03-2020, 10:54 PM
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I hire only licensed contractors and make certain that they pull permits. The plumber we used to hire had workers who weren't all that capable. On my MiL's house, they left the supply line to the front sprinklers buried instead of hooking it up to the manifold, and when they came out to install a new valve for the sprinklers, installed said valve so that it couldn't open if one of the other valves was open. The guy had to bend the handles on the valves so that they could bypass each other. On our house, the same guys were replacing our main supply line and cut the protective shield for the phone line (AKA internet) because it was gray and they thought it was for the sprinklers. The worker was out there trying to put the shielded coaxial cable back together, but I told him to forget it and called the cable company. Everybody east of us on the street had no internet until the company came out to fix it. Then, the pipe up by the house started leaking (poor solder job) and the worker melted the sprinkler solenoid wires and scorched the paint on the house. At our place, they were lucky that the cable company didn't make them pay for the repair, because they didn't call Dig Alert first.

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post #7 of 14 Old 04-03-2020, 11:18 PM
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I was a CA licensed contractor since 1978 and the one thing I can say is that ďreputableĒ does not apply to the majority of licensed contractors. I was so alarmed by the amount of dishonest, downright criminals that I have a very hard time hiring one myself. I also have to say that getting a License is so easy that you cannot assume the job will be done correctly. Now I do know a lot of my friends who are contractors are honest and dependable, but Iím just outraged by the amount of bad contractors that I personally think half of them should be in jail. Youtube is full of them.

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Iím a die hard DIY guy. Donít tell me to hire someone for what I can do myself.
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post #8 of 14 Old 04-04-2020, 06:08 PM Thread Starter
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JohnnyB,

Yes, a license does not guaranty competence. However, in California, a licence that is up to date means both insurance requirements are in force. (liability and bond) You can check at:
https://www.cslb.ca.gov/

Rich
In furniture 1/32" is a Grand Canyon
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post #9 of 14 Old 04-04-2020, 08:37 PM
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Interesting. I wondered about Pennsylvania, and so I just looked it up.



There's no requirement that contractors be licensed in the commonwealth. Home improvement contractors have to be registered with the attorney general's office, carry insurance, and use contracts that comply with consumer protection laws. Actual licensing is left to the local municipalities. Some require it, some don't. There's no statewide database of which municipalities do and which don't.
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post #10 of 14 Old 04-04-2020, 10:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NoThankyou View Post
JohnnyB,

Yes, a license does not guaranty competence. However, in California, a licence that is up to date means both insurance requirements are in force. (liability and bond) You can check at:
https://www.cslb.ca.gov/
Oh I'm quite aware of that as a contractor, but nobody checks until something bad happens then its too late. So many just get the licence with the bond and then let everything lapse. If you don't believe it just check consumer reports for a list of offences.

JohnnyB
Iím a die hard DIY guy. Donít tell me to hire someone for what I can do myself.
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post #11 of 14 Old 04-06-2020, 01:31 AM Thread Starter
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JohnnyB,
I ALWAYS check before hiring or signing a contract.

And if you have ever looked at the requirements for filing a complaint the Board makes the consumer go through H*** before they will accept the complaint. DAMHIKT
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Rich
In furniture 1/32" is a Grand Canyon
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post #12 of 14 Old 04-06-2020, 02:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NoThankyou View Post
JohnnyB,
I ALWAYS check before hiring or signing a contract.

And if you have ever looked at the requirements for filing a complaint the Board makes the consumer go through H*** before they will accept the complaint. DAMHIKT
I think in a all the years I was a contractor only a couple checked to see if my licence was valid. Another checked on my liability Insurance, but I turned the job down after finding out the customer was an insurance fraud scammer looking to make a quick buck. I recommend allays check the better business bureau.

JohnnyB
Iím a die hard DIY guy. Donít tell me to hire someone for what I can do myself.
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post #13 of 14 Old 04-06-2020, 03:04 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sleeper View Post
I think in a all the years I was a contractor only a couple checked to see if my licence was valid. Another checked on my liability Insurance, but I turned the job down after finding out the customer was an insurance fraud scammer looking to make a quick buck. I recommend allays check the better business bureau.
That doesn't work either. I hired a contractor to make me an addition to my house. I found him thru BBB.
After the outside was done and i paid him (i was going to work on the inside myself) the first storm that came thru flooded my new addition. The roof was leaking at several different places and water was coming in under both doors and under one wall. Over the next year he would send a repair crew at least couple dozen times. The wall and one door were fixed by him, but the other door and the roof i had to hire somebody else to fix it. I tried to make a complaint to BBB, but they wouldn't have it.
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post #14 of 14 Old 04-08-2020, 04:08 PM
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A contractor's license is something you PURCHASE. You need to have enough cash to pay an insurance premium, and you need to be able to purchase a bond. In Oregon, you also need to pass a few tests after taking some classes. The class topics are things like how to write a contract, OSHA regulations for having employees, how to keep books, stuff like that. And the tests are open book. So, the reality is, you do not need to know which end of a hammer to hit a nail with to become a "licensed contractor". That is the absolute truth.



The one and only thing that hiring a licensed contractor does for you is help protect you if the contractor screws up, or bails on you. That's it. Nothing else.


Therefore, the best thing you can do when hiring a contractor is to try to get a good contractor, with good references, who is NOT going to screw you or leave you hanging with something that isn't done right, or is coming apart. So get references, and actually CONTACT those references. Ask questions about not only the work, but working with the contractor. Did they communicate well, and willingly? Did the customer feel the contractor was straight with them, or shady and evasive? Is it possible to see examples in person of the contractor's work? If so, take the time to do that. If you read reviews, just keep in mind that you are only getting one side of the situation in a review. Look for trends, not a singular incident.



Contractor's boards do a LOT of PR to convince people that licensed contractors are the only way to go, and while they do not SAY it, they IMPLY that licensed contractors are reliable and competent, while unlicensed contractors are usually 'fly-by-night' operators. All you have to do is go to the contractor's board website and look through all of the claims against all of the licensed contractors to be able to see the lie in that.



I was licensed for 11 years. I am a cabinet maker and furniture maker. The only thing I need a license for is if I attach something to a part of someone's house, such as screw a cabinet to a wall or floor. If I have to do that, and the customer is uncomfortable about it, I have a friend who is a licensed contractor who will come over and put those screws into the wall for me. Then it's totally legal. But the work is still my doing. They are relying on me, on my character, and on references from other people, and they can see a lot of examples of my work on my website. If they want to see some in person, I have customers who are willing to allow that, because they appreciate the quality of the work, and are willing to help me out in that way. It's only happened a handful of times in nearly 30 years, but I appreciate it and the potential customers did, too.


Anyway, sorry if this sounds like a rant, it's a bit of a pet peeve of mine. I got injured many years ago, non-job related, and the results were that I got a medical bill that I could not pay, that gave me black mark on my credit score, which got my bond cancelled, which got my contractor's license cancelled. I could not get bonded again for 10 years, unless I wanted to pay $10,000 for a bond. And I ultimately paid off all my bills in about 2 years,(10k worth) but that did not change my bond status, so I could not renew my license. Thus, I will vehemently protest any claims that only licensed contractors are worth hiring. There, I'm done.
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