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Beware - Unlicensed Contractors

Beware of unlicensed contractors! While licensing isn't necessarily a measure of competence, it does imply a certain level of professionalism and suggests that the contractor is committed to his or her job. More significantly, licensing can protect you from a number of potential problems, such as:

Unlicensed usually means Uninsured. If you use a contractor who is uninsured, it means the contractor has no way of reimbursing you for any property damage he or she causes. Likewise, if contractor carelessness leads to injury or damage to someone else's property, the problem is likely to become yours. Most homeowner policies require that any work to the property be done by licensed contractors.

Noncompliance with building codes. Most building projects, even minor ones, usually require permits and inspections. Unlicensed contractors are often unfamiliar with the applicable building codes and are unable to obtain permits. If your project isn't permitted or doesn't comply with building and zoning codes, you may and probably will be ordered to remove or repair the job. Even if the building inspector doesn't "catch" your code violation right away, you will almost certainly have to correct it if and when you try to sell your house.

Poor quality work. Sloppy work by an unlicensed contractor could have serious ramifications. It could be a serious safety hazard if it's not structurally sound, if it's not wired properly, etc.

Con artists posing as qualified contractors, and often targeting the elderly, often promise unrealistically low prices, or use scare tactics to close the deal. In these cases, the homeowner typically ends up with either an incomplete or a low-quality project and significant cost to repair damages.

Limited recourse for broken contracts. If homeowners have a dispute with an unlicensed contractor they often find that their only recourse is a civil lawsuit. Because many unlicensed contractors go in and out of business readily, such a lawsuit is frequently a waste of time.

Don't rely on a handshake.

Familiarize yourself with the licensing requirements for contractors. If you have Internet access, you can find this information online. Check out your local building department to inquire about licensing requirements or to learn if a particular contractor is licensed in our county. When you're shopping for contractors, be sure to verify that both the license and insurance information you get is correct. You may also check with your local Association of Home Builders, Associated General Contractors and/or the Better Business Bureau to see if complaints have been lodged.

If you select your contractor carefully in the beginning, you are less likely to have problems later. Determine who will actually perform your work, establish in advance an agreed-upon process, request a warranty of at least one year, and have an attorney review all contracts or other paperwork before signing.

From the Pueblo Regional Building Department


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