Beware risk of unlicensed contractors
Buyers can be left without recourse by exemptions
The growing list of exemptions to state laws regulating contractors is leaving Arizonans less protected from shoddy or fraudulent contractors doing home improvements or repairs.
Arizona law allows unlicensed contractors to perform certain jobs as long as they cost less than $1,000, including labor, materials and other items. This is commonly referred to as Arizona’s “handyman??? exemption for a limited range of services. There are instances where the exemption doesn’t apply –for example, if the work requires a local building permit or involves a service that deals with fire, gas or life safety.
It’s a task of untangling double negatives to decipher who and what are regulated by law. Bottom line: Read up on your rights and research the person you hire, no matter how trivial or simple the job may seem.
The Arizona Registrar of Contractors has at least four open investigations into Chris Vezilj, doing business as Park Avenue Shutters and Blinds. Two of the com-plainants allege Vezilj quoted an amount for shutters and installation, cashed out half of the cost as a deposit and never followed through with delivering shutters.
His licensed was revoked, he but continued offering services, and about a dozen other homeowners have expressed similar complaints on online review sites. They are taking matters into their own hands by hiring private inves-tigators and starting a group conversation about their personal research into Vezilj’s business.
“From a consumer standpoint, there isn’t a whole lot of protection for relatively small … cases. We don’t have a whole lot of avenues to go (down),??? said Francis Matic, a Gilbert homeowner who paid $2,500 as a deposit but never got his shutters. “We’re really left to our defenses there. You feel stupid. You feel violated.???
Vezilj’s advertisements from around Search contractor license information at azroc.gov.
the time his license was revoked do not include the phrase “not licensed contractor,??? as required by law for unlicensed contractors.
“I just want my money back: $3,300. When you’re moving into a new house, any amount of money is a stretch,??? said Tina Judy, another complainant.
Vezilj could not be reached for comment.
While Vezilj once was a licensed contractor and his job would not have qualified for the handyman exemption, it highlights the risks involved with hiring home-improvement services and the steps consumers should take to protect themselves.
Consumers should be aware of the risks of unlicensed contractors, such as some people offering handyman services, said Debra Margraf, executive director of the Arizona chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association.
“If you hire a handyman, you need to understand that there’s no recourse for you,??? Margraf said.
Consumers looking to hire a contractor should look for the six-digit Registrar of Contractors license number, which is required on all licensed contractor ad-vertising.
Search the information on the Registrar of Contractors website, azroc.gov, to confirm the license is active. Look up any past disciplinary actions.
Enforcement of unlicensed activity depends on the circumstance of the violation, such as whether it was a first-time offense or a repeat offender, said Tyler Palmer, the Registrar of Contractors’ chief of staff.
In fiscal 2014, which ended June 30, there were 1,962 unlicensed contractor cases. Among those, 462 drew civil citations, and 286 were submitted to court seeking criminal prosecution.
So far in fiscal 2015, which began July 1, there have been 472 unlicensed contractor cases, 193 civil citations issued and 64 submitted to court for criminal prosecution.
MICHELLE YE HEE LEE
THE REPUBLIC – AZCENTRL.COM