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How to protect yourself when hiring a contractor

Dos and don'ts from the registrar of contractors
Posted at 5:00 AM, Oct 17, 2022

PHOENIX — Paid in full, but the work wasn't done. It's a situation that's all too common when hiring a contractor. Many Arizonans have fallen victim and reached out to the Let Joe Know team asking, "what can be done?"

The answer - it depends on who you hired.

The best way to protect yourself - and your money - is to hire a contractor who is licensed. Jeff Fleetham, Director of the Arizona Registrar of Contractors, says by hiring someone licensed you have options.

"That doesn't mean that nothing could happen, but if you hire a licensed contractor then you have some sort of recourse if something goes awry," said Fleetham. Before hiring a contractor, check their license number with the ROC. Make sure it matches the company and the license covers the work being performed.

Be wary of lowball offers with promises work can begin right away. With ongoing labor and supply shortages, if an offer seems too good to be true, it likely is.

"Several of these companies [are] booked out six to eight months... [if] you run into somebody that can start in two weeks, you need to ask yourself 'why'?"

When it comes to contracts, make sure there is a detailed payment schedule. Instead of paying 25% when 10% of the project is complete, go with something more tangible. A percentage of the project may mean something different to a contractor as it does to a client. Fleetham suggests milestones like once the concrete is poured or once the drywall is in place.

Hiring a contractor is starting a working relationship and communication is key. If you don't feel comfortable asking questions or don't feel like you're getting them answered, go with someone else.

But what if you've done everything right, but something goes wrong? If the contractor is licensed, you have options. For workmanship issues, talk to the contractor first to see if they will fix a problem. If that doesn't work, you can file a complaint with the ROC to investigate. In extreme cases, after an investigation and hearing, you could be eligible to file a Recovery Fund claim to recoup funds lost.

If you use an unlicensed contractor, these protections do not apply. However, the ROC wants you to report unlicensed contractors. The Registrar can package those complaints, and if needed, send them to prosecutors.

If you have a contractor question or issue, you can get help in person! Let Joe Know is going On the Road. We're gathering 25 attorneys and consumer experts at Tempe Marketplace on October 18 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. ready to offer one-on-one help.

Click here for more on this event.