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Truth or Consequences

August 11, 2010

 Truth or Consequences

 This is not about the old game show. That involved comedy and this does not. I want to talk to you about hiring a contractor or handyman that has no license.

 How many of you ask to see a contractor’s license when he/she enters your home to perform a job?” Okay, maybe you ask before they get there for the license number and then you check it out online to be sure it is valid and there are no pending issues. Right? If you don’t now – you’d better start. Check the Better Business Bureau site for reputable companies (all kinds – not just home improvement).

 This past week I personally called three people who have displayed their signs saying they will perform “handyman” or “repair” services around your home. Each had a printed sign stuck in the ground at heavily traveled intersections in my part of the county. Since I am looking for subcontractors I decided to call and see if any of them would be interested in working with me on future projects. Here are the three comments I received when I called (and yes, I did introduce myself as having my own company and that I was looking for subcontractors).

  1. “No thanks, I make more money doing this on my own. I can’t afford a license and will not be doing this once I get my old job back.”
  2. “No, I do not have a license or insurance. I am only doing this to pay off some bills.”
  3. “Nope. Don’t ever plan to get a license. I only do small jobs so I don’t need one. I don’t need insurance because it’s just me. I ain’t got no one else working with me.”

 Sure, they are cheaper than my company. Of course they are – they don’t have the overhead I have (workman’s compensation and liability insurance are over $4,000 a year). Let me ask you this: How do you check on their workmanship? Can they provide references? How can they prove they are experienced and have the skill level needed to do the work? How can you trust them in your home if they began the relationship with a lie?

 Working without the proper license and insurance is against the law in Maryland. The law says that although it is a misdemeanor, the first conviction involves a fine of no more than $1,000 or imprisonment up to 30 days. The second conviction (they do it more than once???) results in a fine not exceeding $5,000 or imprisonment no exceeding two years.

 Oh – and did you know that if you take this person to court (usually small claims) you will ultimately lose. Yup – you hired someone without a license. You are just as much at fault as they are. You have no recourse if they screw up.

 So, with all that said I want to ask. Do you do the right thing or save the money and take your chances with the consequences? This enquiring mind would like to know.

 And, as Bob Barker used to say on Truth or Consequences, “Hoping all your consequences are happy ones.”

  1. August 12, 2010 1:58 pm

    Great post Jo Ellen! Might not be a super fun topic, but it’s a very important one.

    Ever since we had a theft of an item with a lot of sentimental value when we had our bathroom remodeled, I’m a bit more concerned about things like licenses and insurance when people come into our home.

    Thanks for always providing such great information in your posts!

    • August 12, 2010 11:38 pm

      Katrina – thanks for the thumbs up. I am sorry that you had to experience the theft. How awful for you. I wish more people knew how important it is to have the right person in their house. Sure – you pay more for the work but look what protection you have.

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