Tuesday, January 3, 2012

On Hangovers and the Perils of Unlicensed Contracting

First things first: Happy New Year! How did you ring in 2012? Me? Well, I spent the night with my girlfriend at a friend’s small party in Astoria and unwisely took not only a magnum of champagne but a great deal of a bottle of Dewar’s to task. My payment for such foolishness came in the form of day-long hangover gleefully watched over by my better half, who was all too happy to dole out the told-you-sos as we made our way through the first season of Boardwalk Empire.

I was also privy to an e-subscription to the New York Times (a gift from my dear aunt Margaret), which has become my best friend in the world on the drives to and from work and various freelance jobs. While I was checking it out on my girlfriend’s iPad, I came across an old article from 2006 that I found somewhat apropos of recent crackdowns on unlicensed NYC contractors, general and otherwise. The article detailed a slew of citations that the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs handed down in 2006 and the lowering of fines that came with said citations in the case where the contractor agreed to get licensed.

It’s a pretty good system, one that from all my research seems to be more or less still in place though perhaps not as readily available as it seemed to be five years ago. I’ve written before about the importance of hiring insured workers and there are similar benefits to hiring licensed contractors. First of all, it’s a certification that they have a legitimate business and at least a mid-range idea of what they are doing when it comes to home improvement. It also tends to mean that they have been around for some time, which is always a good sign.

Still, plenty of licensed contractors are capable of scheming and are prone to using their knowledge to make unfair deals with uninformed customers. That’s why a licensed contractor also guarantees that if, by some chance, the job you hire them to do is not done well or is done without the proper permits or if there is any other major problem with the project, you can take legal action. An unlicensed contractor isn’t on file with the Department of Consumer Affairs (how do you know you can contact him or her?) and also can argue, essentially, that you get what you paid for. The instances in which any court has sided with a consumer who used an unlicensed contractor over a licensed one are extraordinary, if not downright non-existant. So, as we take our first steps into a new year for housing, be sure to hire laborers who took the time to get there license. Also: never mix Dewar’s and champagne…ever.