Spring showers bring May flowers, and home repair scammers

As the weather warms, many homeowners will be pulling out their “spring cleaning” checklists and identifying things around their home that need to be repaired or remodeled.

Unfortunately, there are also a lot of unscrupulous and unlicensed contractors eager to take on these projects who are willing to do anything they can to get the job.

Although most homeowners are looking for the best deal, it’s important to be cautious in your decision-making.

Hiring unlicensed contractors for home repair or remodel projects places added risks and liabilities on the homeowner.

Many of these individuals do not carry workers’ compensation insurance, have not demonstrated their proficiency in the trade you’ve hired them for or have not gone through a criminal background check. And your options for recourse are often limited to civil litigation if something goes wrong during the course of your project.

You should also know that a license is always required for electrical, plumbing, HVAC and refrigeration services — regardless of the size and scope of the project. Failure to abide by industry standards could put you and your family’s health and safety in jeopardy.

The best way to protect yourself is to ask for the contractor’s license number. This is different than a business license. A contractor’s license is generally five digits long (0098765) and can be verified on the Nevada State Contractors Board’s mobile application or website to ensure they are in an “active” standing.

The license search will show you real-time information, including disciplinary actions taken against the licensee, bond information and their license classification, which indicates the type of work they can perform.

Spotting the warning signs

We’ve all met those smooth talkers who have the smile and charisma to convince us to do just about anything. But protecting your family requires a little more skepticism before letting someone into your home. Here are some key indicators you may be dealing with an unscrupulous or unlicensed contractor:

■ Aggressive (even if polite) sales pitch: This happens when the person you are speaking with won’t take no for an answer or keeps trying to persuade you to give them the job on the spot.

■ Significant discounts: Truly good deals can be hard to come by, so be cautious if someone offers you significant discounts for cash-only payments or “today-only” specials.

■ No contract: You should never have work performed on your home without a contract. It’s important to document every detail you expect to be performed and have you and the contractor sign it. Also, contracts must contain the contractor’s license number and monetary limit, another way to verify you’re dealing with a legitimate contractor.

■ Personal checks: The Contractors Board licenses construction entities — not individuals. If someone is asking you to pay them, personally, they are usually unlicensed or could be engaging in fraudulent activities. Always make checks payable to the company directly and never pay with cash.

Hiring licensed Nevada contractors affords you greater options for recourse if you incur damages or are unsatisfied with the work performed on your home.

A complaint can be filed with the Contractors Board up to four years from the date the work was performed. The board will investigate your concerns as they relate to your contractual agreement and may order your contractor to remedy any issues that are validated.

Owners of single-family residences may also be eligible to file a claim with the Board’s Residential Recovery Fund, which can afford up to $35,000 in financial recourse to harmed homeowners.

Each of these recourse options are free to the consumer. The board’s website offers resources, brochures, informational videos, etc. to help guide you in your dealings with licensed contractors. We welcome the opportunity to serve you whether hiring a contractor, filing a complaint or answering your construction-related questions. Please call 702-486-1100 or visit nscb.nv.gov.

Margi A. Grein is the executive officer of the Nevada State Contractors Board.

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