Seven states, including South Carolina, participated in a national sting operation conducted by the National Association of State Contractors Licensing Agencies (NASCLA) the week of September 10. The purpose of the sting was to enhance consumer protection, deter illegal construction activity and level the playing field for legitimate contractors in the industry. Participating states were Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Utah.
In South Carolina, six investigators reviewed more than 200 internet listings and patrolled home improvement store parking lots across the state to find people who were advertising plumbing, electrical, carpentry, HVAC, roofing and other building services requiring licensure by the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. As a result, the Office of Investigations and Enforcement (OIE) has opened 60 cases for unlicensed practice and practice beyond the scope of licensure. Another 10 cases are pending review for a total of 70.
Janet Baumberger, Administrator for the South Carolina Residential Builders Commission, said “What we found in just one day further emphasizes our message that consumers need to be on alert any time they hire someone to do work to their homes: Make sure they are licensed by the state licensing board, and never pay the full cost of the work upfront. Our investigators and staff will continue their diligent efforts to find and shut down unlicensed builders.”
The NASCLA sting is a great example of why the Home Builders Association of Greenville has implemented new standards of membership designed to help consumers select qualified home building and home improvement professionals, and to assure consumers that doing business with a member of the HBA of Greenville is a good investment. Under our new guidelines, a builder or remodeler applying for membership in the HBA of Greenville must:
• Be licensed by the State of South Carolina as a Residential Builder or General Contractor.
• Keep the company’s HBA account current, including dues.
• Be in business for one or more years.
• Be free of unresolved judgments for one year.
• Maintain General Liability insurance of at least $1 million.
• Maintain Workers Compensation insurance consistent with state law.
• Offer a minimum of a one-year warranty on each home built, on additions to homes, and on remodeled homes when mechanical systems are replaced.
• Use a written contract in all business with consumers.
Consumers can check to see if a builder is licensed by visiting www.llronline.com and clicking on Licensee Lookup. All Builder members of the Home Builders Association of Greenville maintain either a residential or commercial builders license with LLR as a condition of their membership.
The RBC licenses all residential builders and home inspectors and registers all specialty contractors in the state. The commission investigates complaints from homeowners having problems with builders or registered specialty contractors and, if necessary, takes disciplinary action against them.
Most builders who do home improvement projects will fall under the Residential Builders Commission. However, a contractor might be licensed by LLR’s Contractors’ Licensing Board, which regulates the practice of general and mechanical contracting, burglar and fire alarm system businesses and fire protection sprinkler contractors.
In addition to making sure a builder is licensed, the Home Builders Association of Greenville offers the following tips when hiring someone to do work on your home:
- Ask the builder to provide you with the names and contact information of people he worked for in the past.
- Check with the Home Builders Association of Greenville and Better Business Bureau of the Upstate to see if there have been complaints filed against the builder.
- Don’t rely on verbal promises. Ask the builder to provide you with a contract, and read it thoroughly to make sure everything you agreed on is in the document.
- Don’t pay all the money upfront.
- Beware of any contractor who solicits business saying he “has material left over from another job in the area and can give you a real good price.” This is a sign you may be dealing with an unlicensed contractor or scam artist.
For more information on builders and remodelers in the Greenville area, visit HBAofGreenville.com.