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BEWARE - Do I Really Need A License Contractor?

Only if you like your home and want to keep it.  A license does more than just ensure that the person you're dealing with isn't a fly by night operator, it gives you important legal protections that truly could mean the difference between keeping and losing your home.  Here are just a few of the potential problems:

  • Unlicensed individuals are considered your employees.  That means you are required to provide them with workman's compensation insurance.  If you do not provide this insurance not only are you in violation of the law, you could be held responsible for paying them for the rest of their life should they get hurt.
  • Unlicensed individuals have no liability insurance.  That means no protection of your investment from faulty materials or workmanship.  Theft from the job site isn't covered and a worker's carelessness that leads to injury or property damage could leave you holding a very large bill.
  • Unlicensed individuals leave you unprotected against a mechanic's lien.  If the contractor you hired to do the work doesn't pay his suppliers they can put a lien on your house.
  • Individuals not licensed do not have bonding protection on their jobs through the state fund, which means you don't have this protection.
  • Unlicensed individuals can not apply for permits on the job you hired them for.  Without a permit, not only are you again breaking the law, you are afforded none of the protections the permitting process offers you.  Your job will not be covered by your homeowner's insurance because insurance companies won't cover bootleg work.
  • You may encounter problems when you attempt to sell your house.  Some counties may even require you to rework the job, costing you twice.
  • Officials can, and do, even require the entire removal of the non-permitted structures.
  • Permitting is done to ensure that the building codes are met.  Building codes are there to ensure that the job is done correctly.  The unlicensed individual probably doesn't even know what the codes are, and is even less likely to follow them.
  • If the codes aren't followed and the job isn't done correctly severe injury to you or your family could result from using the incorrect materials or through faulty workmanship.
  • People often "poo-poo" the building codes when it comes to "simple" projects like a deck or garage but it is no laughing matter when an improperly built garage or deck collapses, leaving a family member buried under five or six hundred pounds of wood.

    The bottom line is that there are lots of reasons not to hire an unlicensed contractor but only one reason to... price.  We think the safety and well being of our families are worth a little extra.  How about your family?

    Some things you should know before you consider certain renovations:

    Rooftop Decks
    A permit is required and it must be signed with a seal of a registered Engineer or Architect.  A certified letter must be sent to adjoining property owners if you intend to use the party walls.  Existing electrical service may have to modify to allow the additional height required for the deck.  The minimum requirements are conductor clearance must be, 36 inches horizontal and 8 feet vertical.

    Digging Out a Basement


    A permit is required and it must be signed with a seal of a registered Engineer or Architect.  This process can be costly and labor intensive, ask for a completion date.  The work must be performed by a licensed contractor.  Have a certificate of insurance in your hand before work begins.

    Stucco Removal & Acid Wash of Brick Face


    Two permits are required, one for the operation and another for any scaffolding required.  This is a particularly hazardous exercise using a highly caustic solution.  All resultant debris and fluids used must be recovered and disposed of with certification from a qualified hauler of hazardous waste.  This certification must stay in your possession until you sell the house, as you are the responsible party, it is your waste.  If you have any concerns or discover a dangerous situation involving this type of activity please contact:

    The Environmental Services Division
    David J Eick or Maurice S Conway
    410-396-9695