Chris Griffith: There’s a big difference between a licensed contractor and a wannabe

CHRIS GRIFFITH

A bona fide plumber was needed for a listing that was threatening to (hell nearly froze over) finally close. It was one of those 11th hour emergency calls and I started working my way down a list of saved numbers from various resources.

As one can imagine, the changing economy has sent folks scattering or changing professions, so many of the vendors that were around years ago are missing in action. Finding one still in the area and available to come out on such short notice could take some doing.

As luck would have it, the first call I made was picked up on the third ring. Pleasantries were exchanged and I asked “Jack” if he was a plumber and still in the area. He said yes. Knowing the situation I was dealing with I immediately asked if “Jack” was a licensed and insured plumber. He said no and I said, no thank you, this job requires a license and insurance.

Now, in the back of my mind I’m thinking that when someone asks you if you’re a plumber and you say yes, the part that actually qualifies you to be a plumber would probably be the license. I’d say, if you don’t have a license you’re just a handyman with a toolbox and maybe one of those squishy foam pad things to kneel on when you’re in front of a sink fixing the leak.

Technically, I guess he could also be a dentist … I mean, for a hundred bucks he could pick up a Dremel and file down that sharp little corner on my fifth wisdom tooth so it quits poking the side of my tongue. I’m sure he’s a Jack of all trades … from toilets to toothaches.

The next call went to David and the same questions were asked. This time the plumber bursts into laughter. I didn’t know what was so funny so I repeated, I’m serious, do you have a license? He said yes and still laughed a little more.

Apparently, there are many frugal consumers out there who are more worried about the price for the service rather than if the person performing the work is actually qualified by way of license. It had been a while since someone had asked David the plumber about actually being qualified to do the job and my call came only moments after someone put his feet to the fire pricing him against an unlicensed “plumber” on Craigslist.

It seems that the consumer just didn’t understand why he wouldn’t do the same job for the Craigslist price. Pesky things like expenses of licensure and insurance get in the way of competing with scabs and grifters.

It’s a huge responsibility hiring any type of contractor to perform repairs. I happen to coordinate repairs for real estate owned by other people so it’s important that it’s done by licensed contractors for a few reasons, least of which is insurance if something goes wrong, like the job isn’t done correctly and it results in more damage or, God forbid, there is an accident and someone is hurt.

There is a value in using properly licensed and insured contractors which also extends beyond the actual job. Those same contractors are our local Southwest Florida business owners and they need the support.

What they don’t need is the Craigslist handymen pretending that they’re licensed, dragging pricing to the basement and taking work from the contractors who are actually following the rules.

Hire a licensed contractor. Verify their license. It makes a difference that reaches much farther than the scope of the work.

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Chris Griffith is a real estate agent at Downing-Frye Realty Inc. in Bonita Springs. If you have a question about local real estate or Bonita Springs, e-mail her at chris@LifeInBonitaSprings.com.

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