Most roofers, plumbers and handymen are honest, competent and reliable. But if you wind up involved with the rare bad apple, the state government can help you recover at least some of your losses.
The key to recovery is hiring a licensed contractor to begin with. If you choose to do business with someone who is breaking Arizona law by taking money for home-improvement work without a valid license from the state Registrar of Contractors (ROC), you’ll find yourself on your own when he skips town with your money before the work is finished.
Even if you’re careful about hiring a legitimate, bonded and licensed contractor, you still could find yourself fighting for a refund or to get the work finished or repaired. In fact,13,000 Arizonans filed claims with the ROC last year. The most common homeowner complaints are failure to complete the work, failure to start the work or work that doesn’t meet industry standards.
If you live in a single-family home and have lost money to a contractor for any of those reasons, your first step is to ask the contractor to make it right.
If that doesn’t work, you can ask the ROC to intervene. After you file a written complaint, the ROC might inspect your property and order the contractor to take a specific action to solve the problem.
If the contractor can’t or won’t comply, the ROC might suspend or revoke the contractor’s license. If it does, you may be able to apply for up to $30,000 from the ROC’s Recovery Fund. You’ll have to fill out lots of forms (find them at www.azroc.gov) and meet lots of qualifications, which require you to describe your “injury;” file your complaint within two years of your problem; and get bids for finishing the work or repairing contractor-caused problems.
You’re not guaranteed any money, of course, and the amount you get depends on how many other homeowners have asked for funds because of the same contractor; the ROC will pay a maximum of $200,000 per contractor (for each kind of license he has).
Your best bet: Avoid the problem from the start. Hire a contractor you trust and who comes highly recommended by others. Need help finding someone good? Visit Rosie’s Referral Network at www.rosieonthehouse.com. The only contractors Rosie recommends are the ones he would hire to work at his own house.