Avoid unlicensed contractors

The Bellingham Business Journal

In the world of business, it is extremely important that everyone play by the rules so that one person doesn’t get burned. 

But unfortunately, the business world is full of people not interested in making sure things are fair. Nowhere is this more apparent than with unlicensed contractors.

According to Elaine Fischer, spokesperson for the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries, there are 58,000 registered contractors in Washington, which is down from 63,000 last year.

Fischer said she doesn’t think these contractors have stopped working, but have simply let their registration lapse. As the recession wears on, registration costs, insurance premiums and other costs associated with being a legal contractor in the state can seem too much to handle — but unlicensed contractors are illegal. Period. 

All businesses are struggling with the effects of the recession, but they do not have the ability to drop off the grid and begin working in another community with little or no overhead. Besides, unlicensed contractors put too much risk on their customers, who have no recourse if something goes wrong.

Bill Quehrn, executive vice president of the Building Industry Association of Whatcom County, told us of an incident when a family bought a new home and when they went to put their dishes in the cabinets — the cabinet crashed to the floor nearly killing their son.

Upon closer inspection, they also found a fissure running along the floor, which was causing the home to split in half. They are now determining if they can repair it or if they need to demolish this new home. Unlicensed contractors left this family with nothing.

They also undermine the marketplace within the building industry. Most contractors are out there playing by the rules and those costs are figured into their bid proposals, but those who don’t have those costs can underbid any legitimate contractor. It’s unfair.

Legitimate contractor also pump valuable tax dollars into our local community. Choosing an unlicensed contractor not playing by the rules, takes money away from parks, infrastructure and essential city services.

Times are tough on homeowners as well, but they should not be seduced by the fast talk and cheap prices flashed around by an unlicensed contractor. While working for a licensed company may cost a bit more, what you pay for is peace of mind. You get the assurance that if someone were to get hurt on your property, you are not liable. You also often get a warranty, so that if something goes wrong, they will come back to fix it.

So be smart; do your research and don’t be the one who gets burned.

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2 thoughts on “Avoid unlicensed contractors

  1. As I licensed painting contractor in Bellingham I see a lot of this. I agree with all that is said in the article. Many things irritate me about this problem. One is that there is little or no policing of these individuals. So even though there is a clear problem, it appears no one is doing anything about it. I know that L & I is supposedly watching this but I see unlicensed contractors working all the time and almost never hear of them getting fined. Also, homeowners have a responsibility to take care of themselves and protect their liability. I don't think that most homeowners understand this. They think if they have homeowners insurance, well then they are ok. Not necessarily true. They are only putting themselves at risk. Also these unlicensed contractors drive down the prices and then people think that legitimate contractors are trying to rip them off. It gives all the trades a bad name having these individuals out there, their level of customer service is usually really low and so is the quality of their craftmanship. Whey you underbid a job the only way to finish and make a profit is to cut corners and thats what these jokers seem to do best. I think as contractors we need to band together and turn in illegal contractors and make sure L and I is following up on their obligation to stop this.

  2. As I licensed painting contractor in Bellingham I see a lot of this. I agree with all that is said in the article. Many things irritate me about this problem. One is that there is little or no policing of these individuals. So even though there is a clear problem, it appears no one is doing anything about it. I know that L & I is supposedly watching this but I see unlicensed contractors working all the time and almost never hear of them getting fined. Also, homeowners have a responsibility to take care of themselves and protect their liability. I don't think that most homeowners understand this. They think if they have homeowners insurance, well then they are ok. Not necessarily true. They are only putting themselves at risk. Also these unlicensed contractors drive down the prices and then people think that legitimate contractors are trying to rip them off. It gives all the trades a bad name having these individuals out there, their level of customer service is usually really low and so is the quality of their craftmanship. Whey you underbid a job the only way to finish and make a profit is to cut corners and thats what these jokers seem to do best. I think as contractors we need to band together and turn in illegal contractors and make sure L and I is following up on their obligation to stop this.

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