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Question DetailsAsked on 5/9/2012

why shouldn't I use an unlicensed contractor?

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3 Answers


No inspection by building department, for your protection.

Injured workers can sue you,do to no workman compensation insurance,and you homeowners may not pay.

If they damage your property, likely no insurance on their part to cover the cost.


Answered 8 years ago by BayAreaAC


Why shouldn't you run across the street between traffic, playing real life frogger? The easy answer is you're asking for trouble.

Generally, a licensed contractor has been tested for competence in the field, something most city inspectors don't even possess these days sadly. You can't rely on them anymore to catch everything that may be done wrong. That's not to say a licensed contractor won't try to cut corners but he should at least know better.

Without a license saying the person you are hiring has at least been checked out to some degree, how do you know who you are hiring? Most licenses require not only the testing but passing criminal background checks. In many cities theft or violent crime are immediate deal breakers and they won't get the license. That's good because you don't want someone like that in your house anyway.

Licensing rules and laws vary greatly from state to state and even from city to city. In Texas we have no licensing for general contractors. Sad, isn't it. They tried a bogus registration program for a few years that failed, largely because there was no testing involved and as expected, poor management. Anyone who could pay the fee and pass a simple background check was registered. The idiots in our city abandoned their tested licensing procedures to follow the state's lead, as it was annouced the state program was shutting down no less. Now we have a registration where any moron that can write his name can go pay a fee to the city and be registered as a contractor without proof he knows what he is doing. That's it! Just fill out a form, clear a local only background check, and pay a fee and the city suddenly considers you qualified to build an addition on an unsuspecting citizens house. It's ridiculous. I've boycotted it and refused to participate in the misleading of people like that. It hasn't hurt my business at all. I tell you this because it is important to know what your state and local governments require and what you are actually protected from with a licensed contractor. Is it a license or registration? Were they tested and are they required to attend classes to refresh themselves on building code? Call up your local building department and ask these things. If it's just a misleading registration like it is here forget about fielding contractors using it. If it is a legitimate license then you have a great place to start.

As for insurance: This could also vary by state but I'm not even required to carry insurance and to get it I don't have to provide evidence of any licensing, mainly because there is none to provide as mentioned above. Now I would for plumbing, electrical, and HVAC work but as a general contractor zip, zero, zilch. As long as I can pay for it I've got it.

A license gives you another measure to resolve disputes should any arise. The issuing city or state likely will have a program to mediate the issue. They also may not allow unlicensed contractors to permit jobs. if this is the case the un-permitted work is your problem. If it's ever discovered after he's long gone it's the property that caries the stigma and even occassionaly a fine. I know I've thrown quite a bit at you but remember, the licensing is supposed to be for your protection so take advantage of it. You want a professional to do the work right the first time. Of course it's unlicensed, unknowledgeable contractors who give the rest of us quite a bit of work in the long run. We lose the jobs to their usually cheaper bids and then get called a few weeks, months, or sometimes years later to go redo it right. It often costs more and takes longer than it would have been to have us do it in the first place.

Todd Shell
Todd's Home Services
San Antonio, TX

Answered 8 years ago by Todd's Home Services


Whoa. Back up a little. First, where did you find this "unlicensed contractor"? If it was through a friend who has used the same person for more or less the same services, that's not bad, esp. if the job was well done for a reasonable price. You should definitely take a look at the actual work.

As for the "unlicensed" part, it depends on where you are. As the second answer explained there are some parts of the country where the license means nothing and no one from the licensing bureau will arrive for a final inspection.

As for the risk of having workers injured while toiling away in your home, check with your insurance agent about coverage you may already have. If you do not have coverage, ask the contractor to take out a short-term policy (not recommended, as you lose control over what is or is not covered). Or do it yourself and explain to the contractor that you will be deducting the premium from the bid price he offered to you.

Answered 8 years ago by Oleron

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