State issues caveats for contracting
Can you please advise me as to what action can be taken for a masonry company that did some work for me? When I try to contact the owner, he gives me a thousand excuses. The job is not complete but he was paid in full. Here's a warning to the public to beware of this con artist. He goes from neighborhood to neighborhood and guarantees his work with a lifetime contract but never returns calls.
Answer: Call the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs' Regulated Industries Complaints Office at 587-3222.
You can either get information or a complaint form. You can also check on whether the company is licensed and whether it has a history of complaints -- something that many consumers neglect to do when hiring a contractor, according to Jo Ann Uchida, RICO's complaints and enforcement officer.
If the person is licensed and the masonry work was more than $1,000, RICO can investigate for possible licensing violations, she said.
If the person is not licensed and the masonry work was more than $1,000, it can investigate for possible unlicensed activity.
Your question and warning are timely because RICO launched an educational campaign this month about hiring licensed contractors, who are bonded and have the necessary insurance.
Check licensedcontractor.hawaii.gov for information, or call, toll-free for all islands, 800-394-1902.
In the meantime, Uchida passed on RICO's top 10 tips for consumers:
» Hire a licensed contractor. You can check on licenses and complaints history with RICO (see above).
» Set your budget in advance and keep some in reserve to pay for changes or unanticipated cots.
» Shop around, getting at least three bids or estimates. If the bids vary significantly, ask why.
» Ask for references. Call trade organizations or ask friends or relatives for referrals. Ask to see other projects the contractor has completed and meet other clients.
» Insist on a written contract, which should include the contractor's license number, price, start and stop date, work to be performed and materials to be used. Get any promises, guarantees or warranties in writing.
» Make sure your project complies with city and county codes. If a building permit is required, ask the contractor who will be responsible for the permits.
» Monitor the job and keep good records. Make sure any change orders are in writing.
» Pay as you go. Set a payment schedule that follows the amount of work completed and avoid paying all of the money up front.
» Know who your subcontractors are and avoid liens. Request partial lien releases for partial payments and a final lien release for final payments. Make sure a notice of completion is published in a newspaper.
» Do a thorough "walk-through" and take care of any "punch list" items immediately.
Got a question or complaint?
Call 529-4773, fax 529-4750, or write to Kokua Line, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu 96813. As many as possible will be answered. E-mail to email@example.com
. See also: Useful phone numbers