Who’s Under Your Roof? The Real Risks of Unlicensed Labor

As a leader in real estate, I am repeatedly asked specific questions about today’s market – especially in today’s economy. In an effort to provide more information to my community, I am sending you this Top 5 in Real Estate Social Networking Systems “e-Article,” in which I provide useful real estate information to my real estate networks. If you find the enclosed information beneficial to your family and friends, I encourage you to forward it to your “social network” as well.

Who’s Under Your Roof? The Real Risks of Unlicensed Labor

Who’s that working under your roof? Or on top of your roof…or way, way up in your maple tree pruning branches? If it’s an unlicensed worker you are facing unaffordable perils-both personal and financial. Here are a few reasons why you should never employ unlicensed labor, even for the smallest job:

– You are exposing yourself to the risk of an unknown person entering your home. Someone purporting to be Mr. Fixit could, in reality, be casing your home for a later break-in, assault or home invasion. The likelihood of these horrors occurring is far less if you are dealing with a licensed contractor with ties to the community.

– You could lose thousands of dollars if the work is shoddy or incomplete. Here’s where using a licensed contractor can really pay off. State licenses require contractors to have trade experience, often requiring performance tests to ensure competency, and they also require contractors to be knowledgeable about local home improvement laws. Best of all, many states have a home improvement guaranty fund from which homeowners can recover money if they suffer a loss as a result of work done by a licensed contractor.

– It’s illegal! Unlicensed workers who perform work for you are committing a misdemeanor and can be arrested, which means you are out of luck in terms of any deposit you may have put down and may well be liable for any materials bought from stores or sub-contractors by the unlicensed contractor.

– You could be exposed to enormous damages in court if the unlicensed contractor is injured on the job. State courts have found that an unlicensed worker cannot, by definition, be an independent contractor-and if he’s not a contractor, he must be your employee. This means he or she can sue you if injured on the job. In one instance in California an unlicensed worker, injured after only a few hours working on a roofing job, successfully won damages claiming he was an employee of the homeowner! In another case in West Virginia, a licensed cable installer won a $1,000,000+ settlement for injuries he sustained from a fall off a power pole attached to a home, claiming that work performed by an unlicensed electrician on the home’s circuit breaker box was the cause of his injury.

These ruinous risks are avoidable. Using licensed contractors may cost more now but you can’t place value on peace of mind. When embarking on contractor work, here are the top five do’s and don’ts to consider:

1. Do ensure your contractor is licensed. The status of a contractor’s license can often be checked through your state’s Licensing Board Website or have the contractor show you a copy of the license.
2. Do ask for references from customers and suppliers who have worked with the contractor; and check for complaints on file with your state’s contractor office and the Better Business Bureau.
3. Do check to make sure a contractor’s insurance coverage is complete and up-to-date, and includes worker’s comp, property damage and liability.
4. Do pay by credit card if possible, or, if paying by check, make it out to a company, never to “cash.”
5. Don’t pay cash. Don’t pay in full in advance. Don’t buy “left over supplies”. Don’t make a final payment until a thorough inspection of the work is complete.

As a member of the Top 5 in Real Estate Network®, I can provide you with more information on how to hire a contractor as well as refer trusted contractors in our community. Just e-mail me. Feel free to pass this article on to other friends and family member who might benefit from this information.


Anthony Crecco

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