Questions to Ask Every Contractor We are just getting ready to interview for a builder of our retirement home in Prescott. What are some of the most important questions we should ask?
-Joe and Diane, Williamson Valley, Prescott
I am on my soap box about
hiring licensed vs. unlicensed contractors today and I am proud to say
that YCCA is an advocate for consumer protection and our allegiance is
to the community, to ensure that you are able to connect to contractors,
tradesman, suppliers and professionals locally. We are proud to be your
local resource. There are laws in place that govern residential
construction and labor and these laws exist to protect homeowners and
licensed contractors are held accountable for the work they do, whereas
unlicensed and handyman are not held accountable through the State of
Arizona. Licensed contractors are required by law, to follow guidelines
established by the Registrar of Contractors when performing work.
Licensed contractors are required to hold worker’s compensation
insurance for those who work under them and are required to hold
Unlicensed labor has an unfair advantage over those who work within the
law. People not licensed and who act as contractors normally do not pay
worker’s compensation for the people who work for them, they do not pay
licensing fees and regulatory fees and often do not meet their
obligations to collect payroll taxes for those who work under them.
Yes, you as the homeowner have the right to hire someone without a
license. We can only say beware! Daily, I receive calls from citizens in
our community that have been scammed, have had shoddy work performed
and have lost hundreds and even thousands of dollars. I will say again
that licensing is not necessarily a measure of competence, skill,
proficiency and ability, however hiring an unlicensed contractor is
certainly a hazard and hiring a licensed contractor does imply that
there is a level of experience, competence and that the licensed
contractor is committed to his profession, as being licensed does
involve financial obligations to maintain a license and the appropriate
insurance and bonding requirements.
Licensed contractors are playing by the rules, paying taxes, paying
insurance and daily they are being underbid by unlicensed contractors
from 20-35% on projects. These savings come with risks! There has been a
huge increase in complaints through the Registrar of Contractors
pertaining to unlicensed issues.
Most building projects even minor ones usually require building permits
and inspections. Many times unlicensed contractors “borrow” someone
else’s license number. If your project is not permitted or does not
comply with building code, you will probably be ordered to either remove
the structure or bring it up to code. Just this week, an unlicensed
contractor poured a foundation for a garage, did not obtain a permit,
the neighbor discovered the concrete foundation was encroaching into his
property and called the building department. The “contractor” skated,
left with $5,000 and now the homeowner has to go to the expense of
removing the illegally poured concrete pad. Had this homeowner checked
this “contractor” out before starting work and followed some simple
steps, they would not have lost several thousand dollars.
Interview and hire only licensed contractors. Check a contractor’s
license status by calling YCCA, we proudly stand behind our members.
Many internet referral sources and marketing companies do not verify
license status, they leave it up to the consumer to verify the
legitimate issues before hiring or doing business with the contractor.
Just because a contractor is listed on these internet referral sites
does not mean their license is in good standing. YCCA walks you through
this verification and we will assist you. You can trust our reviews. All
contractor advertisements, whether it be an ad in the phone book, or
newspaper, a flyer, or the name on the side of a truck, MUST HAVE the
contractor’s state license number. Contractors are also required to have
their license number of their business card and on all bids and
contractors. However, just seeing the number does not mean the license
Remember, although an unlicensed contractor may give you a low bid, the
risks of possible financial and legal consequences you may face far
outweigh any benefits a lower bid may seem to offer.
Remember, you can do more to protect yourself before hiring a contractor
than the Registrar of Contractors can do to help after you have been
Remember most licensed contractors are competent, honest, hardworking
and financially responsible. Most of the problems YCCA sees could be
prevented if homeowners knew their home improvement rights and took
responsibility for their project. A responsible and informed consumer
can work more effectively with reputable contractors and can avoid being
victimized by unscrupulous or unlicensed contractors.
The State of Arizona, through the Registrar of Contractors promotes
quality construction through a licensing and regulatory system designed
to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public. It is important
to protect yourself by avoiding unlicensed contractors and YCCA is
committed to protecting our citizens against unlicensed contractor
activities and scams.
Problems may occur during construction; this happens with licensed
contractors as well and the average experience in dealing with an
unlicensed contractor can be devastating. Most of the consumers that
call me for help complain that the unlicensed contractor did shoddy work
and others call to report that the contactor ran off with their money,
or started the job and never finished. As we have shared with our
readers on many occasions, it is essential and vitally important to
verify the credentials of any contractor you are considering to hire.
You can easily do this by calling YCCA and we are happy to confirm if
the contractor is licensed and in good standing, the license issuance
date, expiration date and complaint history on their record for the last
5 years. We can also confirm if the license has been suspended for any
reason during the time period of the license being active.