An ill-advised bill being considered by the Arizona legislature would make it easier for unlicensed construction companies or workers to perform jobs without being properly licensed by the Arizona Registrar of Contractors (ROC). The proposed legislation (SB 1305)ould adversely impact Arizona homeowners and position unscrupulous, unlicensed contractors to scam even more than last year's reported $22 million from consumers.
Currently, an unlicensed person legally can do "handyman" work and minor home repairs, provided that the total cost of the project is less than $750, including labor and materials. The pending legislation would raise this limit to as much as $2,000, but would eliminate materials from the equation. In other words, an unlicensed person or company whose knowledge has not been tested, is not required to be bonded or insured, and likely does not pay taxes or carry liability insurance, can do a project of any size as long as the labor costs less than $2,000.
So what does loosening the rules for unlicensed contractors mean to the average homeowner? First, it allows for a much higher financial risk for consumers -- the amount of money he or she is "out" should the handyman do substandard work or no work at all goes from $750 to an unlimited amount, not to mention the liability homeowners assume should that individual get hurt on their property. Second, it leaves the injured homeowner with few options for recovering these losses.
Homeowners who get burned by unlicensed contractors forfeit many options when they knowingly -- or more often unknowingly -- hire someone without a license. Home improvement and repair scams are common in Arizona due to the year-round construction-friendly weather in many parts of the state, as well as our large senior communities. Why open the window of fraud wider for unscrupulous, unlicensed contractors by completely changing the way we define the cost of a construction project? Do you want someone without a license putting a $5,000 roof on your home? If so, here's hoping the job's done right because if it's not, your chances of recouping what you've lost -- and getting the work done correctly at no cost -- are slim to none.
Israel G. Torres, director, Arizona Registrar of Contractors