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View Full Version : Contractor vs. Handyman Licensing in YOUR State



Stacey
01-16-2008, 01:48 PM
Our local Home Builder Association is working on tightening up handyman licensing in our city. Currently our state allows handymen to have a business license with no requirement of insurance or bonding. They are limited to jobs under $10,000. Our city (Anchorage), does not allow handymen to work at all.

Our problem is, we have tons of unlicensed contractors (handymen) here. Our city tends to look the other way since so many politicians own rental property that needs to be maintained in an inexpensive (handyman) way.

We are interested in finding out what other states and cities do on licensing and limiting handymen.
Some of the ideas we've had are:
1. require name, phone and address on all handymen vehicles.
2. require g/l insurance of $100,000 minimum.

We are getting really frustrated with all the handymen parked at Home Depot with their disability license plates working for cash and not paying taxes. The disability parking area at Home Depot is always full! We are also getting frustrated with the HO's that hire the handymen because they are cheaper. Then when the handyman messes up the HO's home, they call the state to complain about the "contractor" messing up their house.

kreg McMahon
01-16-2008, 02:10 PM
in north carolina, there is no difference. 30,000 and up you need a licence. plumbing and electrical you need a license no dollar min .

calif 500 max per job otherwise you need a license no matter handyman or other.

official1jg
01-16-2008, 02:27 PM
IN maryland even a repair at a home requires MHIC license.

required for MHIC
100,000 G/l ins
Financial solvency
Pass the contractors exam (no tape measure needed) open book 55 questions pertaining to contract law mostly

Mutiple Rental propertys do NOT require MHIC licensing
more here http://www.dllr.state.md.us/license/home_imprv/mhicapply.htm#req

http://your4state.com/content/fulltext/?cid=11116

David Meiland
01-16-2008, 02:40 PM
As far as I can tell, WA licensing reqs apply to anyone working on a property, whether you are changing a lightbulb or building a mansion. I know one handyman here, he is licensed and insured just like I am.

The problem is not with licensing, it is with HOs who want to hire cheap and uncomplicated. The only answer I have is to go after jobs that require a more sophisticated outfit. I cannot compete with the cash guys doing quick and dirty repairs and "remodels". My clients are, by definition, people who need more capability than that and know it.

carpenter
01-16-2008, 03:55 PM
A
The problem is not with licensing, it is with HOs who want to hire cheap and uncomplicated. The only answer I have is to go after jobs that require a more sophisticated outfit. I cannot compete with the cash guys doing quick and dirty repairs and "remodels". My clients are, by definition, people who need more capability than that and know it.

I agree with that.

In NY there is no state wide regulation. In our county only our fair city requires licensing of any kind and then it's only for plumbing and heating work. HO's can do their own plumbing, not sure about the heating.

The city has been issuing maintainence and repair permits lately. No fee, no inspection, no real reason to issue a permit. A building permit is required for new construction and structual repairs.

There will always be an underground layer of business to compete with. More regulation will not erase them. They will survive because there is a demand for them.

Good Luck
Dave

Overbuilders
01-16-2008, 04:04 PM
In Colorado, electricians and plumbers are licensed by the state. Remarkably, no state licensing for General Contractors, so obviously your average handyman can easily fly under any building department radar. Pulling a permit is another story. Most if not all jurisdictions require updated GL certificates on file before permits are issued, but it's very easy to perform kitchen and bath remodels and finish basements here without pulling a permit. I won't, but it can be done.

rogerg
01-16-2008, 04:10 PM
I guess the one question is : what is the difference between a handyman and a contractor and who makes that distinction.
I am a one man show that does renovations. Nowhere does it say or do I say that I am a contractor. I work for people. I am hired help. Period.
I really don't care if someone calls me a contractor or a handyman as long as I'm paid my hourly rate. Depending on the circumstances I actually tell the person that they are the contractor and I just work for them. If they feel a building permit is needed, they get it.
Similar to Dave I don't compete with anyone. I don't care what they charge. I only care what I charge and that is always T&M.
I would think if you are going to have rules it is best to define what a contractor/handyman is. To me, it looks like they are both the same thing except for maybe size. As far as ability and quality, a name doesn't guarantee anything

roger

Mark G
01-16-2008, 06:07 PM
You might get more results if your HBA worked with the local TV stations to do some reports on substandard work done by handymen. Consumer protection is always a good story. I see them all the time down here. The story always ends with the warning "make sure your contractor is licensed. Call this number...".

Stacey
01-16-2008, 07:35 PM
Mark G,
I think you are right - educating the public is the way to go. We do radio advertising every spring, maybe we need to be looking at a tv spot for the advantages of hiring a licensed contractor. We don't want any more regulations since the current ones aren't enforced anyway.

VTNorm
01-16-2008, 08:27 PM
Vermont - no licensing requirement, no insurance requirement, no permits required in many cases other than to give the tax assessors office a heads up to bump your valuation. Don't matter if you're building a garage, a $3m ski house or just replacing the front steps and railings for granny.

Things are a little tighter on the electrical and plumbing side - but not much.

-Norm

davenorthup
01-16-2008, 11:00 PM
Stacey - I think the handyman license in AK is quite rare in most states. Especially for the $10K and below.

From my experience people will hire unlicensed people no matter what the state does.

I think Mark has the best idea - public awareness along with education of the public. Legislation is the weakest link in gaining progress. You and I know how much work is done in Anchorage by unlicensed and unpermitted jobs. Heck, I've tried several time to permit jobs that exceeded the legal dollar amount, I was told I did not need it - so they went unpermitted. I heard that they are especially cracking down on these value jobs in lieu of declining permits.

I still remember growing up in AZ. Almost every contractor had a bumper sticker on it that said "Licensed Contractors build Confidence". I believe that was a home builders effort to get the message out about licensing and I think it worked to an extent - along with those 10 o'clock investigations of unlicensed guys getting a $100 fine on TV... :)

twolfcon
01-17-2008, 12:16 AM
In Tn. anything under 25,000.00 is handyman, & need a licence, not as hard to get as a GC though.
Anything under 3000.00 no license.

Mike

frenchie
01-17-2008, 12:03 PM
Home Improvements is Home improvements, here. Anything over 600 needs a license.

Dick Seibert
01-17-2008, 02:34 PM
California wrestled long and hard with this problem. The B&P Code exempts all work under $500, a few years ago they passed §7159.10, §7159 (the section which deals with home improvements) says in the beginning:

Requirements for home improvement contracts
(a)(1) This section identifies the projects for which a home improvement contract is required, outlines the contract requirements, and lists the items that shall be included in the contract, or may be provided as an attachment.
(2) This section does not apply to service and repair contracts that are subject to Section 7159.10, provided the contract for the applicable services complies with Sections 7159.10 to 7159.14, inclusive.


§7159.10. Service and repair contract defined
(a)(1) “Service and repair contract” means an agreement between a contractor or salesperson for a contractor, whether a general contractor or a specialty contractor, who is licensed or subject to be licensed pursuant to this chapter with regard to the transaction, and a homeowner or a tenant, for the performance of a home improvement as defined in Section 7151, that conforms to the following requirements:
(A) The contract amount is seven hundred fifty dollars ($750) or less.
(B) The prospective buyer initiated contact with the contractor to request the work.
(C) The contractor does not sell the buyer goods or services beyond those reasonably necessary to take care of the particular problem that caused the buyer to contact the contractor.
(D) No payment is due, or accepted by the contractor, until the work is completed.
(2) As used in this subdivision, “the work is completed” means that all of the conditions that caused the buyer to contact the contractor for service and repairs have been fully corrected and, if applicable, the building department has accepted and approved the corrective work.
(b) For any contract written pursuant to subdivision (a) or otherwise presented to the buyer as a service and repair contract, unless all of the conforming requirements for service and repair contracts specified in subdivision (a) are met, the contract requirements for home improvements set forth in subdivisions (c), (d), and (e) of Section 7159 shall be applicable, including any rights to rescind the contract as set forth in Section 1689.6 or 1689.7 of the Civil Code, regardless of the aggregate contract price.
(c) If all of the requirements of subdivision (a) are met, only those notices and other requirements set forth in this section are applicable to the contract.
(d) Every service and repair contract described in subdivision (a) shall include, or otherwise comply with, all of the following:
(1) The contract, any changes to the contract, and any attachments shall be in writing and signed or acknowledged by the parties as set forth in this section, and shall be written in the same language (for example Spanish) as principally used in the oral sales presentation.
(2) The writing shall be legible.
(3) Any printed form shall be readable. Unless a larger typeface is specified in this article, the text shall be in at least 10-point typeface and the headings shall be in at least 10-point boldface type.
(4) Before any work is started, the contractor shall give the buyer a copy of the contract signed and dated by the buyer and by the contractor or the contractor’s representative.
(5) The name, business address, and license number of the contractor.
(6) The date the contract was signed.
(7) A notice concerning commercial general liability insurance. This notice may be provided as an attachment to the contract if the contract includes the statement, “A notice concerning commercial general liability insurance is attached to this contract.” The notice shall include the heading “Commercial General Liability Insurance (CGL)” followed by whichever of the following statements is both relevant and correct:
(A) “(The name on the license or ‘This contractor’) does not carry commercial general liability insurance.”
(B) “(The name on the license or ‘This contractor’) carries commercial general liability insurance written by (the insurance company). You may call the (insurance company) at to check the contractor’s insurance coverage.”
(C) “(The name on the license or ‘This contractor’) is self-insured.”
(8) A notice concerning workers’ compensation insurance. This notice may be provided as an attachment to the contract if the contract includes the statement “A notice concerning workers’ compensation insurance is attached to this contract.” The notice shall include the heading “Workers’ Compensation Insurance” followed by whichever of the following statements is both relevant and correct:
(A) “(The name on the license or ‘This contractor’) has no employees and is exempt from workers’ compensation requirements.”
(B) “(The name on the license or ‘This contractor’) carries workers’ compensation insurance for all employees.”
(e) Every service and repair contract described in subdivision (a) shall provide the following information, notices, and disclosures in the contract:
(1) Notice of the type of contract in at least 10-point boldface type: “Service and Repair.”
(2) A notice in at least 12-point boldface type, signed and dated by the buyer: “Notice to the Buyer: The law requires that service and repair contracts must meet all of the following requirements:
(A) The price must be no more than seven hundred and fifty dollars ($750).
(B) You, the buyer, must have initiated contact with the contractor to request the work.
(C) The contractor must not sell you goods or services beyond those reasonably necessary to take care of the particular problem that caused you to contact the contractor.
(D) No payment is due and the contractor may not accept any payment until the work is completed.”
(3) The notice in at least 12-point boldface type: “Notice to the Buyer: You are entitled to a completely filled in and signed copy of this agreement before any work may be started.”
(4) If applicable, the heading “List of Documents to be Incorporated into the Contract,” followed by the list of documents to be incorporated into the contract.
(5) Where the contract is a fixed contract amount, the heading: “Contract Price” followed by the amount of the contract in dollars and cents.
(6) If a finance charge will be charged, the heading: “Finance Charge” followed by the amount in dollars and cents. The finance charge is to be set out separately from the contract amount.

Continued:

Dick Seibert
01-17-2008, 02:37 PM
Continued:

(7) Where the contract is estimated by a time and materials formula, the heading “Estimated Contract Price” followed by the estimated contract amount in dollars and cents. The contract must disclose the set rate and the estimated cost of materials. The contract must also disclose how time will be computed, for example, in increments of quarter hours, half hours, or hours, and the statement: “The actual contract amount of a time and materials contract may not exceed the estimated contract amount without written authorization from the buyer.”
(8) The heading: “Description of the Project and Materials to be Used and Equipment to be Installed” followed by a description of the project and materials to be used and equipment to be installed.
(9) The statement: “The law requires that the contractor offer you any parts that were replaced during the service call. If you do not want the parts, initial the checkbox labeled ‘OK for contractor to take replaced parts.’ ”
(10) A checkbox labeled “OK for contractor to take replaced parts.”
(11) If a service charge is charged, the heading “Amount of Service Charge” followed by the service charge, and the statement “You may be charged only one service charge, including any trip charge or inspection fee.”
(12)(A) The contract, or an attachment to the contract as specified under subparagraph (C) of this paragraph, must include, in immediate proximity to the space reserved for the buyer’s signature, the following statement, in a size equal at least to 12-point boldface type, which shall be dated and signed by the buyer:
“YOUR RIGHTS TO CANCEL BEFORE WORK BEGINS
(A) You, the buyer, have the right to cancel this contract until:
1. You receive a copy of this contract signed and dated by you and the contractor; and
2. The contractor starts work.
(B) However, even if the work has begun you, the buyer, may still cancel the contract for any of the reasons specified in items 1 through 4 of this paragraph. If any of these reasons occur, you may cancel the contract within three business days of signing the contract for normal service and repairs, or within seven business days of signing a contract to repair or correct conditions resulting from any sudden or catastrophic event for which a state of emergency has been declared by the President of the United States or the Governor, or for which a local emergency has been declared by the executive officer or governing body of any city, county, or city and county:
1. You may cancel the contract if the price, including all labor and materials, is more than seven hundred fifty dollars ($750).
2. You may cancel the contract if you did not initiate the contact with the contractor to request the work.
3. You may cancel the contract if the contractor sold you goods or services beyond those reasonably necessary to take care of the particular problem that caused you to contact the contractor.
4. You may cancel the contract if the payment was due or the contractor accepted any money before the work was complete.
(C) If any of these reasons for canceling occurred, you may cancel the contract as specified under paragraph (B) above by e-mailing, mailing, faxing, or delivering a written notice to the contractor at the contractor’s place of business within three business days or, if applicable, seven business days of the date you received a signed and dated copy of this contract. Include your name, your address, and the date you received a signed copy of the contract and this notice.
If you cancel, the contractor must return to you anything you paid within 10 days of receiving the notice of cancellation. For your part, you must make available to the contractor at your residence, in substantially as good condition as you received it, any goods delivered to you under this contract. Or, you may, if you wish, comply with the contractor’s instructions on how to return the goods at the contractor’s expense and risk. If you make the goods available to the contractor and the contractor does not pick them up within 20 days of the date of your notice of cancellation, you may keep them without any further obligation. If you fail to make the goods available to the contractor, or if you agree to return the goods to the contractor and fail to do so, then you remain liable for performance of all obligations under the contract.”
(B) This paragraph does not apply to home improvement contracts entered into by a person who holds an alarm company operator’s license issued pursuant to Chapter 11.6 (commencing with Section 7590), provided the person complies with Sections 1689.5, 1689.6, and 1689.7 of the Civil Code, as applicable.
(C) The notice required in this paragraph may be incorporated as an attachment to the contract if the contract includes a checkbox and whichever statement is relevant in at least 12-point boldface type:
(i) “The law requires that the contractor give you a notice explaining your right to cancel. Initial the checkbox if the contractor has given you a ‘Notice of Your Right to Cancel.’ ”
(ii) “The law requires that the contractor give you a notice explaining your right to cancel contracts for the repair or restoration of residential premises damaged by a disaster. Initial the checkbox if the contractor has given you a ‘Notice of Your Right to Cancel.’ ”
(f) A bona fide service repairperson employed by a licensed contractor or subcontractor hired by a licensed contractor may enter into a service and repair contract on behalf of that contractor.
(g) The provisions of this section are not exclusive and do not relieve the contractor from compliance with any other applicable provision of law.
Added Stats 2004 ch 566 § 10 (SB 30), operative July 1, 2005. Amended Stats 2005 ch 48 § 13 (SB 1113), effective July 18, 2005, operative January 1, 2006, ch 385 § 6 (AB 316).


I haven't looked into it because I've never dealt with complaints that small, but it appears you don't need a license under $500, need a Service and repair license between $500 and $750, and a B license thereafter, kinda dumb!

Otis P. Driftwood
01-17-2008, 02:41 PM
Massachussetts has two things, the "Home Improvement Contractor" registration, which a lot of people are interpeting as a "license". To get an HIC, pay a fee, fill out a form. The other is the CSL (Construction Supervisor License), where take a class, take a test, and get the license. The "License Mills" as I call them in MA where the teach people how to pass the test, have
flooded the market with people with licenses, who still don't fathom building code.

"Supposedly", MA is cracking down on this abuse in 2008, from what I've been told. The number of unlicensed hacks out there outnumbers the licensed people by 1000:1 in some areas. If a consumer gets screwed by an unlicensed contractor, the State of MA won't offer much help, apart from telling the person to pursue things in the general courts. If a licensed contractor screws over a client, then the state "may" take action, but it's a long process.

Otis

A.P.G.C.
01-17-2008, 04:56 PM
The HIC is such a joke. Like Otis said, $100 and a form. This "registers" you with the state.

I took one of those license courses as a prep course. Well it certainly is. It teaches you how to pass the test, not learn the code. My course was even tought by a local building inspector! I'd love to know how many GC licenses there are in MA. I wonder if I can find that online.

Here is a breakdown of situations in MA

http://www.mass.gov/Eeops/docs/dps/inf/inf_table_hic_csl_activity.pdf

framer53
01-17-2008, 05:52 PM
this licenseing laws are simply ways for states to obtain money. a reasonable out for everone would be for everyone get a building permit no matter haw small the project. then to require insurance to get a permit. inspections required for everything. this would be consistant from one state to the next. this would put the burden on the state, cities and counties to keep there buildings properally taken care of.

bobkni
01-17-2008, 07:34 PM
In NJ everyone needs to be registered except for businesses with sales of $50 million a year (Lowes, Sears, HD ) from landscapers to handymen to remodelers need $500k insurance, and $90 check. If you plant 1 bush or hang 1 storm door you need to be registered. The problem is there is no way or procedures to enforce the registration except for denying issuance of building permit. Just a money maker for the state.

Housewright
01-18-2008, 05:14 AM
The question I have to ask is how difficult is it to obtain a license? And, does licensing necessarily equate to better quality? Where I am in NYS there is no statewide requirement for contractor licensing. Electricians are licensed, Plumbers not always in rural communities.

Pesonally, I think we should all be licensed and have to pass a thorough exam. But I don't think it necessarily equates to better quality for the consumer. We have all seen dumb lawyers, dumb doctors, dumb architects, and dumb engineers that somehow passed a test!!!!!!!!

A.P.G.C.
01-18-2008, 07:37 AM
I would say the MA Construction Supervisor's License exam was pretty thorough. But the classes... run by the state... teach you to pass the test. So unless you are completely brain dead you are fully prepared for it.

Otis P. Driftwood
01-18-2008, 08:48 AM
I would say the MA Construction Supervisor's License exam was pretty thorough. But the classes... run by the state... teach you to pass the test. So unless you are completely brain dead you are fully prepared for it.

The class itself are taught by private companies. The State administers the test. One "License Mill" has an advertisement that says "we guarantee you will pass the test, or we'll pay!". Figure one company having 6 sessions at once, with an average of 50-100 people per session, at say $300 per person, comes out to a lot of money to be made by these "License Mills". One firm has a fleet of customized Hummers driving all over the place.

On the other hand, the Plumbing, Oil Burner, Electrical trades are more stringent when it comes to licensing, and there are no "You too can do electrical work and pass the test
guaranteed" outfits around.

I've come across a few "licensed" people who are clueless when it comes to code requirements. I know one course taught by a Building Inspector who still
works his day job, a violation of MA Ethics Laws.

Massachusetts is trying to have all Cities and Towns in the State use one standard building permit form, and adhere to licensing rules, but there is a lot of opposition from some building inspectors who have the "Big Brother" syndrome. I know of some towns where only the HIC (Home Improvement Contractor) registration is needed to pull permits and perform structural repairs, in direct conflict with MA building code.

A.P.G.C.
01-18-2008, 11:51 AM
You're right, I was thinking of Prometric, the company the state uses to perform the test.

The guy who did my course told us right out that he a town inspector.

Mueller Construction
01-18-2008, 12:44 PM
I guess the one question is : what is the difference between a handyman and a contractor and who makes that distinction.
I am a one man show that does renovations. Nowhere does it say or do I say that I am a contractor. I work for people. I am hired help. Period.
I really don't care if someone calls me a contractor or a handyman as long as I'm paid my hourly rate. Depending on the circumstances I actually tell the person that they are the contractor and I just work for them. If they feel a building permit is needed, they get it.
Similar to Dave I don't compete with anyone. I don't care what they charge. I only care what I charge and that is always T&M.
I would think if you are going to have rules it is best to define what a contractor/handyman is. To me, it looks like they are both the same thing except for maybe size. As far as ability and quality, a name doesn't guarantee anything

roger

Reading between the lines:

In California there is a vast distinction between licensed and unlicensed contractors. You can usually tell within the first 30 seconds of meeting them. Having a license means, for one, that you had the capacity to pass the test, which is not easy, and, you care enough about your occupation that you want to be legal.

Having a license also protects the HO from being sued, opens a channel for disputed work, bonds the contractor for HO protection, and is an all around more dignified status of the Contractor/Handyman.

Stacey
01-18-2008, 05:50 PM
Framer53,
Excellent suggestion. I think requiring the permit puller to have X amount of g/l & w/c is great. Anybody is allowed to pull a permit here without being a contractor, as long as it's their own property. So lots of HO's pull their own permits, then hire joe handyman to do the work on the cheap. But if the HO's were required to get insurance like contractors are, then they playing field would be a lot leveler.

When I say that owners are allowed to pull their own permits, I mean they can build 20 story commercial buildings as long as they are the property owners. We have probably 1/2 of our houses being built by owner-builders here.

carpenter
01-18-2008, 07:27 PM
To pull a permit here does require proof of WC & lib. ins. for contractors, homeowners can sign an affidavit stating that they work w/o hired help or get a rider(?) for their homeowners ins. to cover the job.

Pulling their own permit is the first step a customer can take to lower the cost with us. We provide our policy number to meet the insurance requirement (it's on file at the code enforcement dept.) and the customer does all the leg work and pays the fee.

Good Luck
Dave

Housewright
01-18-2008, 08:15 PM
We also need to provide proof of WC and GL to pull a permit. I would be very careful about providing your certificates to home owners so they can pull a permit. Suppose they go on to hire undocumented workers, and one of those workers gets hurt, I think as contractor of record you could be liable for the mis-doings of your customer.

I have generally found that customers who are trying to save money on such things aren't worth having. I for one do not like having deadbeat tradesmen on a job that are too cheap to have proper insurances. I won't hire them, unfortunately, some of my customers do, and I am forced to sometimes work with them. I make every effort to steer my customers away from their type.

Everyone who is ligitimate, has overhead and pays their men a decent wage, wants reasonable profit and marks up accordingly. We are all in the same boat, thus our rates are similar, region by region. I honestly loathe unskilled, unprofessional, uninsured, low priced handy man scum-bags. They do nothing for the industry, and nothing good for the customer. I would welcome stringent licensing, I just don't know if it necessarily would help. Rules are made to be broken, customers who want a cheap job will find some guy flying under the radar willing to do it.

I think the handy-man market is probably quite lucrative. It is difficult for us to do small jobs, we just aren't set-up for it. I do not know if handymen should be held to a lower standard though. Small jobs need to be done well also, the people doing them need to have broad trade knowledge, not just be handy.

Manny Davis
01-19-2008, 11:05 AM
I would welcome stringent licensing,...

Suppose the licensing requirements in your field were stringent enough so that you, personally, couldn't meet them. Would you still welcome them?

Lavrans
01-19-2008, 11:30 AM
Oregon has a handyman license limiting work to less than $500. Insurance is $100,000, bond $5,000. Not many get them.

It's back to the old question of who gets penalized for using them. The anti regulation people don't believe any license is ever right or acceptable, and no one should be rewarded or penalized for having or not having one.

I'm on the other side of that fence, I think there should be regulation, it should be skill based (Oregon's is purely a business based license; they don't care if you know what a nail is, they just want to make sure you know you have to pay taxes & use contracts). I also think the only way to enforce it is to treat the clients like businesses and penalize them for using unlicensed businesses. If I'm doing my taxes & I use a hack to prepare them who makes mistakes I don't get to pass on those mistakes to the hack, I am liable for any and all mistakes. I can sue the hack for damages, but the responsibility is on my shoulders, and I am the one who has to pay the penalties. The government can also go after the hack for operating without a license.

I really think that anything less than that is just a worthless layer of expensive bureaucracy that helps no one. Look at California, Oregon & Washington: licensing requirements has generated some money for the state governments, but has done nothing to increase the overall quality of contractors, and does nothing real to prevent the use of them. All of the regulations are a waste of time that only helps the unlicensed at the expense (legal, money & reputation) of the licensed. Because there is no penalty for using the unlicensed contractor the HO will use them, but put all the expense of using them onto the legal system, insurance system, and complaints about contractors- they are only penalized by getting the crappy work THEY ASKED FOR.

Dick Seibert
01-19-2008, 12:43 PM
Licensing worked here in California until the schools showed up selling test answers and they can't be constitutionally stopped, the FAA had the problem with pilot licensing when a school started sending applicants in to memorize select questions, the FAA sued to stop the practice, and the courts ruled it legal, so if the Feds can't stop it for aircraft pilots the States sure can't for the building trades. Before the advent of the schools the majority of carpenters I knew couldn't pass the test, many took it several times and stayed as carpenters working for contractors smart enough to pass the test, as it should be, now it's a mess with contractors running businesses with room temperature IQs. I've had carpenters sign up with the schools, take and pass the test, then come back to me with basis questions shortly after, they didn't learn a thing, and have no business being licensed contractors.

Contractors have become more businessmen than tradesmen now anyway, I think there is hope in our current push to license tradesmen, after a long, rough, start, we are finally getting electricians licensed to work on jobs, and they must have completed an apprenticeship program. Once this is functioning properly, hopefully we will require training and licensing for carpenters and the other tradesmen.

stan54
01-19-2008, 02:00 PM
No license in Albany New York area
Some towns and cities require licensed plumber to do more sofisticated plumbing jobs
Licensing is not going to change this situation
There always is and always will be market for Walmart customers and Macys customers
In my opinion if you sell good quality at reasonable prices you always
find your match ,looking for comfortable niche and eliminating projects where we cant compete with retired teachers is the answer

Housewright
01-19-2008, 07:28 PM
Suppose the licensing requirements in your field were stringent enough so that you, personally, couldn't meet them. Would you still welcome them?
Manny
I guess if I couldn't meet them I should find another profession. That said, I am confident I could prepare and pass any licensing exam.

I take my profession seriously, I read as much as I can, I am truly a student of the craft. I do have the advantage of being a second generation contractor. Dick, Lavrans and others have cited the many difficulties with licensing. There are no guarantees. Some people test well, but have poor judgement, for some it is the other way around.

The best way for communities to protect their residents is to develop really good building inspection and code enforcement departments. License or no license, you need to satisfy the building inspector. Most towns in our area require architects and/or engineers drawings to pull permits.

I think from reading the posts most responsible builders are disgusted with incompetent builders. Problem is all the regulation in the world is not going to catch all the bad guys. The thing I fear is that it will become just another revenue device for towns, not worth the paper it is written on.

Mueller Construction
01-19-2008, 07:56 PM
Licensing worked here in California until the schools showed up selling test answers and they can't be constitutionally stopped, the FAA had the problem with pilot licensing when a school started sending applicants in to memorize select questions, the FAA sued to stop the practice, and the courts ruled it legal, so if the Feds can't stop it for aircraft pilots the States sure can't for the building trades. Before the advent of the schools the majority of carpenters I knew couldn't pass the test, many took it several times and stayed as carpenters working for contractors smart enough to pass the test, as it should be, now it's a mess with contractors running businesses with room temperature IQs. I've had carpenters sign up with the schools, take and pass the test, then come back to me with basis questions shortly after, they didn't learn a thing, and have no business being licensed contractors.



Dick,
Whether someone has the aptitude to pass the state test or is given the answers is not the only problem, it’s how one chooses to run his business afterwards. Most people learn the fine skills of their occupation on the job anyway while their lawyer and accountant can teach them the finer points. The problem I see comes from licensed and most unlicensed Contractors who use undocumented workers to deflate the real costs of doing business. While hack work is usually done by unlicensed Contractors that affect the HO, the licensed Contractors who operate an illegal crew screws the legitimate licensed Contractor. Knowing contract law and being a master carpenter does not make a person operate by the rules. Our industry is being taken apart by the illegal and undocumented workers who sell their product for Wal- Mart prices.

I was approached by the Mail lady the other day and she looked at me with amazement with my bags on and asked, “You do your own work?” And I said, “why do you ask, don’t you see a white guy swinging a hammer anymore?” She said “no”.

beetlej
01-19-2008, 08:38 PM
Talking about Mass. It's a joke. H.I.C. is a form and $100 bucks. GC license is a 50 question open book test. I know of one guy, illegal immigrant, been here for 3 years, and has 2 years of "construction" experience. Took, passed, and received his GC license.

Lavrans
01-20-2008, 01:48 AM
GC license is a 50 question open book test.

OK, now this is part sour grapes, but also something I just don't understand. I was "misfortunate" to have taken the test here in Oregon during one of the two years the test was closed book. I guess too many people couldn't pass it, so they went back to open book. It was open before as part of the planned transition to required licensing (If I'd gotten my license 2 years before no test would have been required, although I could have taken it if I wanted).

I just don't see much benefit to open book testing. The test had nothing to do with construction skills, just rules, regulations & taxes. But if you don't have the capacity to learn that stuff, you're not going to learn other things very well either, are you?

Dick Seibert
01-20-2008, 12:18 PM
I think open book testing is a joke, at least California still doesn't allow it. Are you guys aware that the Building Inspectors now have the ease of open book testing for the IRC examinations? Thank God California isn't going to that over-simplified piece of crap code, but respect for inspectors really drops in my book to know that they got their credentials through open book testing.

rogerg
01-20-2008, 12:58 PM
There is a little story, probably not true but appropriate: Einstein was asked a question by a reporter to a simple question. After some thought, Einstein said he didn't know the answer. "What!!" cried to reporter " you are one of the greatest minds of the century and you don't know the answer." "Ah!" Einstein said " But I do know where to find it."
Open book or closed book exam is almost irrelevent. It's the ability to realize that when there is question that you are not completely sure of, you know where to find the answer.
I always carry many different code books and instruction books with me because I can't remember everything. No one can.
The trouble is that you can't legislate intelligence. You may be quick enough to pass a closed book exam or an open book exam doesn't mean you are intelligent enough to use them continuously or even correctly for that matter.
I'm one of those guys that have always taken courses and have diplomas for all sorts of things and I have found open book exams are much tougher than closed book exams. It makes you learn how each code book is broken into sections, subsections, paragraphs and the killer, addendums.

roger

Dick Seibert
01-20-2008, 01:24 PM
Roger:

The purpose of testing is to separate the wheat from the chaff, open book tests your ability to research and come up with answers, closed book tests you ability to memorize and recall, and recall on a moment's notice. In an ideal world testing would include both open and closed book methodologies. Everybody shouldn't be a contractor, we've got to make the entry level higher both to protect the consumer, and to protect other's in the industry. Bar exams have target pass rates, so you take someone who's made it through college, then through law school, then target about 50% (or whatever the State Bar thinks desirable) for entrance into the profession. Something similar should be done for contractors, licensing was instituted by contractors to protect contractors from ignorant competition which can only serve to downgrade the industry and make it more difficult for others to be legitimate and avert cut-throat pricing which helps no one. The proliferation of contractors' licenses has created cut-throat competition, and removed many craftsmen from the labor pool available to those running legitimate profitable businesses.

Back in the 50s many fine carpenter friends were unable to pass the exam before the "schools" arrived on the scene, they remained union carpenters and many retired millionaires with their pensions. I have to wonder what would have happened had they passed the examination and became contractors, I would bet that many would have become bankrupt and in poverty today.

BigLou80
01-20-2008, 05:51 PM
Dick,
your missing one point about open book testing at least here anyhow. Its timed. If you don't know with in a page of two in the 600+ page code book where to look you can't pass the test. Maybe its different in other states but in good ol taxachusetts you have to answer a question a minute or something close. I would say about 35-50% of the people who take the test fail.

Lou

Dick Seibert
01-20-2008, 07:39 PM
Lou:

I've never taken an open book test so I wouldn't know, as long as they keep the failure rate up I guess they would be all right.

Lavrans
01-21-2008, 12:01 AM
In a situation where the test is different I think there is a place for open book testing. It does test a different aptitude. In the case of Oregon the test is exactly the same. They just took the same test & allowed people to bring their books.

Unfortunately, even an open book test doesn't help people to continue to use that book.

This is actually a tangent on the one thing that regulation can easily do- if this construction thing was treated like a real profession it would require continuing education. The resources already exist in many states- Portland's building department holds open nights & educational seminars all the time. There are trade schools, the community colleges teach inspection. It's no guarantee, but if people had to have a card, and had to maintain that card, there is a chance the skilled pool would increase and the chaff might not find it so attractive.

Just one facet of an idea.

BigLou80
01-21-2008, 07:52 AM
Lavarns,
in theroy we have a continuing ed requirement here. I like the idea of seperating the wheat from the chaff our test here is hard if you don't know the code you don't stand a chance.

The biggest problem I see here is one of perception from the public and lack of enforcement from the inspectors in rural areas. Most people won't think of hiring an unlicensed electrician or plumber but don't even ask before hiring a contractor to build a deck or remodel the kitchen. Its not so bad on the bigger jobs where they can't hit and run with out a permit.
Things can get pretty spread out around here with regional inspectors so its even harder to find and eliminate these guys.

Lou

BigLou80
01-21-2008, 07:55 AM
Talking about Mass. It's a joke. H.I.C. is a form and $100 bucks. GC license is a 50 question open book test. I know of one guy, illegal immigrant, been here for 3 years, and has 2 years of "construction" experience. Took, passed, and received his GC license.

beetlej,

good for him I think did he take the unrestricted test or the 1-2family test ? . I took the unrestricted test and aced it but I can say its not all that easy of a test. I know plent of good ol legal white guys who have failed that test.

I agreee the HIC is a joke. Its the good guys paying for the bad. I resent sending money in to a fund to pay for the bad guys not finishing a job. Worse yet is they only cover guys who have registered, if you don't have an HIC they can't do anything to you. Like I said in my last post they really need to run a public education campain so the public stops hiring pickup truck and dog construcion

Lou

Otis P. Driftwood
01-21-2008, 09:18 AM
Lavarns,
in theroy we have a continuing ed requirement here. I like the idea of seperating the wheat from the chaff our test here is hard if you don't know the code you don't stand a chance.

The biggest problem I see here is one of perception from the public and lack of enforcement from the inspectors in rural areas. Most people won't think of hiring an unlicensed electrician or plumber but don't even ask before hiring a contractor to build a deck or remodel the kitchen. Its not so bad on the bigger jobs where they can't hit and run with out a permit.
Things can get pretty spread out around here with regional inspectors so its even harder to find and eliminate these guys.

Lou


I agree, the Commonwealth of MA does a poor job of educating the public in regards to the Home Improvement Contractor / Construction Supervisor rules and regulations. I know several people who have had their CS licenses for "eons" and are clueless when it comes to the new building code regulations,
much less being able to fill out a permit application.

I've seen towns who issue permits for structural repairs to
people with an HIC only, in direct violation of the rules. People will understand the need for a plumber's license or electrical license, but then ask why a license is needed to build a deck ?

At every proposal I give to a potential client, I include the table the State of MA uses for where an HIC/CS is needed as well as additional information on licensing. In most, if not all cases, the client is unaware of the requirements, much less what can and can't be done with an HIC/CS.

Sadly, I've come across more than my share of MA building inspectors who are equally clueless when it comes to the rules. Then again, some building inspectors in MA got their jobs by "who you know" not by experience.

I ran into an incompetant building inspector last year, while working on a client's porch restoration / reconstruction. My work was covered under a permit, but when a crew from CT showed up and started putting in a new bathroom and addition, with no permits, no license in MA. I mentioned this to the building inspector who placed the blame on me as "A person holding a CS is responsible for all work on a job site". I walked off the job, due to the liability issues.

That same inspector informed me "to consider never ever working in MY town again..." in writing, earning him a complaint filed with the regional building inspector.

Enough, the blood is starting to boil....
Otis

Stacey
01-21-2008, 03:58 PM
10 years ago I passed our Alaska state residential exam (no test required for commercial). I had to take a 2 day class on arctic building held by the state. Then I could take the test. I passed the first try. I think I made my husband very happy that day since it meant he didn't have to take the exam :) Of course if I were to divorce him, I take the license with me, so that would make for an interesting divorce settlement!

The exam was 1/3 arctic construction, 1994 IRC (open book), and 1/3 general construction knowledge.

Vet Volunteer
01-26-2014, 04:34 PM
In advance, I apologize for the long story. Here is my situation. I am a Navy veteran approaching retirement from the Construction Management industry. It has been my dream for many years to give back to the Disabled American Veterans (DAV). I live in Massachusetts and want to provide handyman services to DAVs who either can't afford it or are not physically capable of doing it. In short, they will pay for all material, pay me approx. $10 / hour for my work and travel costs. I will not be paid for my work. They will make out a check to one of my two favorite charities. I see this as a win-win-win situation. They get the work done, I get the satisfaction of having helped someone who has given so much for our country and my charities get a donation. The DAV even gets the tax write-off (I do not). Having said all that, I am wondering if I need to protect myself with a license (if there is one) and do I need some type of Liability insurance? In a simplistic way of thinking about this, how much different is this than doing some handyman work at a friends house? I am trying to do this without having any out of pocket costs (especially since I will be on a fixed income) and without incorporating, etc. Anyone have any good advice?

tomthetoolman40
01-26-2014, 04:51 PM
Anyone have any good advice?

See an attorney.

LIHR50
01-26-2014, 07:48 PM
Sailor, first thanks for your life time of service.

I would contact your local VFW (join if you haven't already) and see if they have a program that you can join through the VFW that helps vets in need. This may eliminate the need for licensing, insurance etc.. and keep your costs down.

TWhite
01-26-2014, 08:09 PM
What a cool idea!

dgbldr
01-26-2014, 10:28 PM
Thanks for your service and this is a very cool idea.

Please do see a lawyer. Preferably a local one with some construction knowledge. Perhaps you can find one to advise you for free given the scope of your noble endeavor, perhaps one who is a vet himself.

There are legal, licensing and insurance issues that vary from state to state and even within a state and it's best to be aware and protected.

m beezo
01-27-2014, 06:13 AM
That is a great idea and one that is well deserved.

I would suggest that you check with some other organizations that do home repairs already. You may find there is a group that you could work with that is doing what you are trying to get going with some sort of differences. I know our local Rebuilding Together, which is a nationwide organization, works on veterans homes. Every year the work on a couple of hundred homes. Several of the sponsors require that the money they give go to work on veterans homes. Just how that is all set up I do not really know but over my 15 years with them I have been able to work on at 3 and maybe up to 5 that were veteran related. I have heard of Wounded Warriors and do not doubt that the local VFW group could be enticed to give you names of deserving homeowners and may even be a sponsor as well as a source of helpers.

Your idea sounds just a bit different than some organizations may be set up but you could try one of them to learn a few things and go from there.

Michael Kallis
01-27-2014, 11:17 AM
In advance, I apologize for the long story. Here is my situation. I am a Navy veteran approaching retirement from the Construction Management industry. It has been my dream for many years to give back to the Disabled American Veterans (DAV). I live in Massachusetts and want to provide handyman services to DAVs who either can't afford it or are not physically capable of doing it. In short, they will pay for all material, pay me approx. $10 / hour for my work and travel costs. I will not be paid for my work. They will make out a check to one of my two favorite charities. I see this as a win-win-win situation. They get the work done, I get the satisfaction of having helped someone who has given so much for our country and my charities get a donation. The DAV even gets the tax write-off (I do not). Having said all that, I am wondering if I need to protect myself with a license (if there is one) and do I need some type of Liability insurance? In a simplistic way of thinking about this, how much different is this than doing some handyman work at a friends house? I am trying to do this without having any out of pocket costs (especially since I will be on a fixed income) and without incorporating, etc. Anyone have any good advice?

First, Thank you for your service.

As others have said consulting with an attorney as well as an accountant would be highly advisable. However, some suggestions beyond that; Look into setting up some sort of 501(c)(5) (non-profit labor organization). You may qualify for grants or low interest loans by doing so. This would be useful in generating the funds necessary to operate, which in turn may help your organization help more veterans in need. You will need capital to maintain this operation for any length of time. Don't give money away to other charities when you are looking at operating one yourself. Liability insurance is a must for a variety of reasons including your financial personal protection and the financial protection of your clients. It may also be required by your state. I would also recommend legit licensing.

Good luck,
Mike

Bill Robinson
01-27-2014, 11:23 AM
Consider forming a 501 c not for profit.

While this may incur an initial expense it will pave the way for opportunities you have not considered. Grants, donations of materials and other things.

Or you can keep it simple and just do it.