Guest Blogger: Why you should hire a licensed contractor

Our guest blogger today is Pamela Mares, an information officer with the California Contractors State License Board. Pamela is responding to a recent post titled: When a job goes bad, is the contractor the only one at fault?). Here’s what she had to say about it:

Hiring an unlicensed contractor may seem like a money saver, unless you get ripped off.You are so right in your analogy about how people spend more time picking out a hotel than hiring a contractor. It is usually the lack of planning and research that leads to problems.

We receive more than 20,000 complaints each year at the Contractors State License Board (CSLB). About one-quarter of them are from consumers who hired unlicensed operators. These are usually the cases with the biggest money loss. That is why it is so important to hire only licensed contractors.

You have already mentioned the importance of checking out contractors and their status with CSLB. To get a license, contractors are tested and fingerprinted and must undergo a background check. They must have at least four years of experience, demonstrate knowledge of their craft and pass two tests to be licensed. They have promised by virtue of their license (and a $12,500 bond) to be accountable for the work they perform.

Another perilous area for homeowners are “consultants” who will offer to talk them through the owner-builder permit system for a fee. Unless you are knowledgeable about the construction process, it may not be worth it.

When subcontractors and suppliers are not paid on schedule, they may file mechanic’s liens against your property.

If your workers are injured — or your subcontractors are not licensed or do not carry liability insurance or worker’s compensation and are injured — you could be asked to pay for injuries and rehabilitation through your homeowner’s insurance policy or face lawsuits.

If you don’t pull the necessary permits or pass inspection, it may be difficult to sell or insure your property.

Anyone can check out a contractor, file a complaint or get information about hiring a contractor at or at (900) 321-2752.