FRUIT HEIGHTS — Twenty-one unlicensed contractors have been cited by the state following weeklong sting operations in Davis and Washington counties.
Utah’s Department of Commerce and Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing conducted the sting in cooperation with the National Association of State Contractors Licensing Agencies. In addition to Utah’s investigation, licensing agencies in Arizona, California, Maryland, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island and South Carolina conducted stings targeting unlicensed contractors.
During the operation, state Department of Occupational and Professional Licensing investigators set up decoy homes needing repair in St. George and Fruit Heights and then responded to Internet ads by those advertising contracting services for repair and renovation bids on Internet bulletin boards and online classified ads.
Once investigators received bids from respondents, they were cited for unlicensed activity and given information on the process for gaining licensure in Utah. Twelve citations were issued in the St. George sting, and nine were handed out in the Fruit Heights operation.
Some citation examples include:
• An individual with a handyman exemption who showed up at a home to bid a job for $5,453, which exceeded the state’s handyman exemption limit of $3,000 total for labor and materials.
• An unlicensed individual advertising as a landscaper, who offered to complete front and rear landscaping, hot tub removal, tree removal, new grass and new sprinkler system within a $10,000 budget.
• An unlicensed individual who gave a bid to tile decks for $1,000 in materials and $1,850 in labor. He also submitted a bid to install wood floors for $9,000 in materials and $3,275 in labor.
"Based on the numerous high-ticket bids received by our decoy homeowners, the public needs to make sure they work with licensed professionals to ensure your rights are protected under state law if the deal goes south," Mark Steinagel, director of the state Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing, said in a news release. "Otherwise you may end up paying twice for the same job when the phony contractor fails to deliver."
Francine A. Giani, executive director of the Utah Department of Commerce, said it’s important for homeowners to check the licensing of contractors before hiring them.
"When homeowners want something fixed or upgraded, they are quick to compare prices but not quick to check to see if someone is licensed through the state," Giani said in a prepared statement. "Do yourself a favor and take five minutes to check them out at www.dopl.utah.gov where you can verify, online, anytime."
Advice for consumers on choosing a licensed contractor
•Verify that the contractor or business is actively licensed with the state of Utah at www.dopl.utah.gov.
• Always hire a licensed contractor so you have the ability to file a complaint if something goes wrong in the business transaction.
• Get three written estimates to compare.
•Check at least three references with former customers.
• Check with materials suppliers on which contractors/companies they would recommend.
• Require a written contract to protect yourself and your property against liens.
• Don’t make a large down payment. Pay as work is completed.
•Monitor the job in progress.
•Don’t make the final payment until the job is complete in accordance with the terms of your contract.
• Keep copies of all paperwork related to your job.
Source: Utah Department of Commerce