RI Contractor’s need to be licensed…A word to area homeowners

Posted in the Foster Forum

Wendy Palmer
#1 Feb 27, 2006
Recently more and more we are hearing stories of “bad contractors”. This means that more and more homeowners are being taken advantage of. The RI Contractor’s Board has been inundated with hundreds of complaints. With the substantial rise in the housing market we have experienced in the last few years, many homeowners decide to remodel their existing home instead of paying today’s high prices. Little do they know, once they enter into the phase of hiring a contractor, they need to start protecting themselves. As of today, contractors in the State of RI do not need to be licensed as they do in many other states. This means no matter how much “background” you do by checking the Better Business Bureau, the Contractors Registration Board, references, it may not be enough.
Not too long ago, I found myself in a situation where a local “bad contractor” ordered materials from a local lumber yard and had them delivered to my address where we were having an addition built. Having paid the contractor for all work performed, I never assumed that later I would receive a notification from the lumber yard stating they intended to put a lien on my property for non-payment. I was shocked and couldn’t imagine I would ever be responsible for something I was not involved in. Family, friends and co-workers also assumed that this couldn’t take place since the contractor was paid and should now be responsible. Boy, were we all wrong! The law states that since the lumber yard is considered a “sub-contractor”, they have no choice but to put the lien on the address in which it shows the delivery was made. Now it is up to me, the unknowing homeowner, to do a lot of proving. I thought I had done everything correctly.
Currently, The Better Business Bureau will let you know whether or not the contractor is a member and at least you can see if there have been any recent complaints about the company. This doesn’t necessary mean if they are not a member, that they are bad. Not all businesses decide to become members of the BBB. Other means, such as The Contractors Board’s website can tell you a little more about the individual you’re planning on hiring, but not much. Anyone can simply fill out the necessary application, provide picture identification and insurance and pay the registration fee, which I think is around $120. That easy, you’re registered! Bottom line of all this is Rhode Island law does not do enough to protect the unknowing homeowner.
There are ways to help solve this current situation. Recently, State Rep. Charlene Lima has been working with other law makers to explore the possibility of making contractors obtain licenses. This is huge step for homeowners and we need to help get this pushed through congress. As homeowners we can not continue to let our rights be stepped on by unscrupulous contractors. I urge everyone to write, call, email their local state representation and urge them to get a new law for this into effect. Sooner or later most of us will need to hire outside individuals to repair, replace, or change something in our homes. Make sure you are protected. If you are unsure of who your area officials are, log onto http://www.elections.ri.gov/general.htm for a current list of RI Senators and Representatives.

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