So you hired a qualified, licensed home-improvement contractor to work on your home—and he ripped you off. What now?
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.
But 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, around 13,000 Arizonans file claims with the ROC every year.
ROC Director William Mundell tells me homeowners are having more problems as the economy forces more contractors out of business. Someone might start a project at your house and abandon it in the middle—and have no money to repay your deposit.
Plus, the state has more contractors than it used to. As more companies lay employees off, those employees go out on their own. Not all of them have the experience to see a job through to a successful finish.
The most common homeowner complaints, says Mundell, 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.
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 my Referral Network at www.rosieonthehouse.com. The only contractors I recommend are the ones I would hire to work at my own house.