Margi Grein: Spotting scams during the summer building season (Voices)
Special to the NNBW
EDITOR’S NOTE: This Voices column is adapted from the Spring 2020 edition Peak NV, a specialty magazine produced by the Nevada News Group and its member publications, including the Northern Nevada Business Weekly.
Warmer weather and melting snow signal the arrival of spring — an infamous time for homeowners to dig deep in their efforts to declutter and tackle those long-awaited home improvement projects.
This welcomed season is also known to awaken predators looking to take advantage of Nevada homeowners. The Nevada State Contractors Board wants to keep you from being victimized by stressing the importance of hiring a licensed Nevada contractor.
Hiring a licensed contractor provides a homeowner up to four years from the date work is performed to file a complaint with the Board and have their concerns investigated. Such concerns may include, but not be limited to, poor workmanship, incomplete projects or failure to uphold the terms of a contract.
The Board’s investigation allows for a review of the contract terms, any work performed and other factors that may be of importance to the complaint filed.
Upon review of the evidence, the Board may validate the complaint items, at which time options for remedy may be ordered of the contractor. Homeowners may also find themselves eligible for financial remedy through the residential Recovery Fund.
Beware of red flags
When the services of an unlicensed contractor are acquired and the homeowner becomes dissatisfied with the work performed, options to remedy the damage are minimized.
While the homeowner can still file a complaint with the Board up to two years after the work was performed, validated cases cannot be resolved through a Board investigation. When necessary, the Board forwards such cases to the local district attorney’s office where criminal prosecution is sought.
Common red flags of unlicensed or unprofessional contractors, may include:
- Being approached at your home without a scheduled meeting.
- Having “extra materials” on-hand to begin work immediately and at a discounted cost.
- Requiring cash-only payments or checks payable to an individual.
- Aggressive sales tactics creating an uncomfortable interaction.
- Company information provided does not match the Board’s license information.
Do your due diligence
Homeowners can combat these tactics and best ensure they hire a licensed contractor using the following recommendations:
- Always ask for the contractor’s license number. This should be displayed on all contracts, bids, advertisements, company vehicles and on the contractor’s “pocket ID card.”
- Verify the license number on the Board’s website (www.nscb.nv.gov), mobile application, or by calling the Board’s office (702-486-1100 or 775-688-1141).
- Always verify the information provided on the Board’s license search page matches the contact information provided on the company’s bid, contract, or employee’s business card. If there are any discrepancies with an address, phone number or company name, contact the company phone number provided on the Board’s license search page and verify the person offering to perform work is a current employee of the business and ensure the company is aware they are soliciting work at your home. This small step can help protect you from becoming victim to fraudulent schemes.
- Try to obtain at least three bids for any service you need performed. This allows you to compare bids, identify what the industry standard might be, and select the company that best meets your needs.
- Remember that the cheapest bid is not always the best. Take time to evaluate bids closely to determine if services or costs were removed when compared to other bids received. These could be added on during the project, or you may receive less than you were expecting.
- Lastly, never pay in cash, and only make checks payable to the licensed company.
Don’t second-guess your instinct
At the end of the day, the Board encourages the use of licensed contractors because of the opportunities it affords homeowners suffering from poor workmanship or project concerns.
While every case is investigated on its own merit, it is a celebrated moment when the Board is able to work with the homeowner and contractor to ensure work is done correctly.
For owners of single-family residences, the Recovery Fund is an opportunity to file a claim to be able to recover up to $40,000 in damages when a contractor goes out of business or is unable to remedy validated issues by the Board within the four-year statute of limitations.
While some home repair projects require urgent action, most should be afforded the time to make an informed decision. Among all the tips and recommendations offered in this article, never second-guess your instincts — they usually guide you in the right direction.
Margi Grein is Executive Officer of the Nevada State Contractors Board. Go to nvcontractorsboard.com to learn more.
“I point out many cases of where privately owned companies do just as bad a job as publicly owned companies,” says Reno resident and former teacher Robert (R.D.) Gardner.