Seniors advised to check contractors for licenses
By Theresa D. McClellan
For the Fort Bend Star
Fall is here and you’ve got an armload of ideas on how to fix your home, your finances and your health.
Make sure you are diligent in protecting yourself and that starts with education, according to Susan Stanford, spokesperson for the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) in Austin.
The state agency oversees more than 20 types of businesses, industries, trades and occupations. So they should be your first stop in determining if a business is licensed to do what they say they can do.
And why is that important?
Because if they are licensed, they have to carry insurance and if they mess up, you can go after their insurance to recoup your damages said Stanford.
“We had a person bidding on jobs. He didn’t have the requirements to be a contractor. Say it’s an electrician or air conditioning contractor, if your house was to burn down because of what he did, because you didn’t hire a licensed contractor, that could be a loophole for your insurance and you’re out of luck,” Stanford said.
The good news is that anyone can go to their website at www.tdlr.texas.gov, go to the search option and see if the person they are considering hiring is licensed and also if there are violations against them.
Stanford said word of mouth is a good reference but you can also check online sites such as www.yelp.com where consumers give local reviews as well as www.ripoffreport.com and www.consumeraffairs.com.
“Senior citizens need to be aware. Contractors are required to carry insurance and have certain requirements,” she said.
She suggests homeowners also call the city they live in to see if a permit is required.
“You want your work done legally,” Stanford said.
If a contractor has a license, that number has be on their advertising, their bids, their invoices and company vehicles. You can use their license number to go onto the government website to confirm it is a valid number.
“I also suggest get comparison bids and beware, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Also know that you should never have to pay the entire amount up front. Some will ask you to put up 50 percent,” she said.
And always read the contract and make sure the contract states exactly what they will do, when the project starts and when it is completed.
“You really have to do your homework. Sure if you’re using an unlicensed person, it may be cheaper at first glance, but if you used an unlicensed person, your insurance policy could be invalid.”
Unfortunately TLDR does not regulate everyone who could fix your home. There are no regulations over roofers, there never has been.
“We have had several sessions where people have come and asked us if we could take on the roofers but (the legislators) have never done anything,” she said.
She said the best advice for seniors is to educate themselves and advocate for themselves.