Why you should always hire a contractor with a license…

A quick contractor nightmare story:

This is a Real World, “In the Trenches” story. I was working in a new (to me) park that required contractors to be licensed. Some parks require and check on that, some don’t. This one did. My regular contractor was on 2 other jobs already.

The first ‘contractor’ gave me a bid and promised he’d ‘beat anyone’s price, no problem’. It was higher than the other bids. I told him that and he said he couldn’t go any lower. OK no problem. Thank you. He lost it with me on the phone, for ‘wasting his time’, adding that he wanted to get paid for coming by to give the bid. I told him that contractors usually give free quotes, a paid bid wasn’t prearranged and I wouldn’t do that. He then told me his ‘sister was an attorney in Seattle and loved putting people out of business’. I thanked him and wished him luck. Never heard from him again, or his sister.

Second ‘contractor’ gave me a bid but admitted he was a felon and didn’t have a license. But would do the best job I had ever seen. I mentioned the park required licensed contractors so thanked him for his time.

Third ‘contractor’ gave me a bid and said he was licensed. WAS licensed (previously)… just wasn’t at the moment. He would be again in a week. Then he said he was going to let his wife ‘get it because there are a lot of programs out there, for women in business’.

No problem. I love helping people (sometimes to a fault) and giving them a shot. He let it lapse during the market crash and was doing union work. So I agreed to let him start but needed the license ASAP. 

He guaranteed that he’d have the license renewed within the week.

Then said his wife needed to study, and was working so could only do it off hours. I told him I needed to have the license within the week as agreed.

The job bid was $5500 for 10 days. He told me he liked to start early and would start at 8 AM every day… He rarely was there at 8am. So needless to say, the job was going to run longer than 2 weeks.

Initially he said to pay him after the work was done.

On the third day he said he needed some money to pay his workers. I paid him $1500… Then he needed more money three days later. No problem, I paid another $1500. Four days later said he needed more. I gave him another $1500. So that’s $4500 on a $5500 job.

Why you should always make sure your contractor is LICENSED..

Get proof of that, and get referrals. You can also reference resources like The Landlord’s Guide to Screening Vendors, from Bigger Pockets.

Back to already receiving $4500. We were now at 3 weeks. So way past the 2 weeks project date. He said he needed the rest of the money to pay his guys. We walked through the job. He admitted that they had finished less than 25% of the job but had received 80% of the money for the entire job. We were nowhere close to 50% completion, never mind final walkthrough! So I couldn’t pay any more until completion.

Well… he got a bit heated. So, I got to meet a couple of the local police officers.  My wife happened to be there and had to call 911. For a couple tense minutes, I honestly thought I was going to be a grease spot on the sidewalk. By the time the police arrived he was gone.

I got an email later that he emailed saying I needed to pay the other $1000 or he would take me to court, take away my license, red tag my job, $15k fine, etc etc. I copied my attorney and…

Never heard from him again. And never did see that license…

Had I insisted on the license up front, all this excitement wouldn’t have happened. Lesson learned.

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See you there!

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