ST. GEORGE — The state has issued over half a million dollars in fines to unlicensed contractors who were swept up in a multistate sting operation.
The Utah Department of Commerce announced Wednesday that the Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing targeted unlicensed contractors who advertised online and across social media during a three-week investigation last month. The operation was a part of a national effort by members of the National Association of State Contractors Licensing Agencies.
During the investigation in Utah, the department opened over 170 cases and issued 96 administrative citations for not being licensed. Fines totaling $543,000 were also imposed.
Of the 96 unlicensed contractors cited, 15 of them were from Washington and Iron counties, department spokeswoman Jennifer Bolton told St. George News. Details regarding those cited were not released.
“Unlicensed contractors hurt homeowners and business owners with fraud, shoddy work and liability issues as well as taking away business from Utah licensees who follow the law,” said Francine A. Giani, executive director of the Utah Department of Commerce. “Anyone can verify someone’s professional license and check for disciplinary action online anytime at www.dopl.utah.gov.”
Occupational licenses, such as those required to be a contractor, electrician or plumber, note that an individual engaged in that profession has undergone the proper training and state certification. A license holder is also seen as one who will uphold the standards associated with that license.
State officials consider not having a proper license a potential safety issue, as the quality of work done by an unlicensed contractor may not be up to the same standard a licensed contractor must uphold. Department officials sometimes appear at job sites and ask to inspect the licenses of the contractors and subcontractors involved.
“This year’s sting operation sent investigators across the Beehive state to make sure unlicensed activity, whether in urban or rural areas, was addressed to protect the public,” said Mark B. Steinagel, director of the Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing.
According to RemodelWorks.com, while unlicensed contractors may offer cheaper options over their licensed counterparts, any issues that arise from an unlicensed contractor’s work can end up falling on the property owner – both legally and financially.
“If the work is not up to the proper local building codes and your unlicensed contractor did not acquire the proper permits, then your property value could even be negatively impacted,” the website states. “You could even void your homeowner’s insurance policy if a claim arises as a result of the work done by an unlicensed contractor.”
Remodel Works is based in California, one of the states involved in the national sting operation.
The Utah Division of Professional Licensing offers the following tips on choosing a licensed contractor:
- Consumers should be aware that internet bulletin boards and online classified ads may invite deceptive business opportunities.
- Verify the contractor or business is actively licensed with the state of Utah at www.dopl.utah.gov.
- Always hire a licensed contractor so you have the ability to file a complaint if something goes wrong in the business transaction.
- Request three written estimates to compare.
- Check at least three references with former customers.
- Check with materials suppliers on which contractors/companies they would recommend.
- Require a written contract to protect yourself and your property against liens.
- Don’t make a large down payment; pay as work is completed.
- Monitor the job in progress.
- Don’t make the final payment until the job is complete per the terms of your contract.
- Keep copies of all paperwork related to your job.
To file a complaint, verify the license of a professional or check on whether a licensee has faced disciplinary action, visit www.dopl.utah.gov. For more information on the National Association of Contracting Licensing Agencies, visit www.nascla.org.
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