Profile picture for Muffinpage

Is it okay to use a contractor without a license?

  • May 29 2009 - US
  • 1
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Answers (43)

Profile picture for lplushnick
Here is the thing...There may be unlicensed contractors that do decent work, but you open yourself up to many different variables. The first thing is that they are uninsured. If anything happens while the work is done in your home you are down the creek. Also, there are many rules that need to be followed as a licensed contractor that you learn while studying and not just working in the field like code violations and proper ways to do certain jobs. I feel like if someone was purchasing a home and you found out the contractor was unlicensed, maybe there are things that you can't see now that the work is done, that may be incorrect and you would never know by just looking at it. Always use a licensed contractor it is not worth it, and for the amount of money you "think" you save times that by 5 with amount of money you "lose" by repairing all the things that were possibly done incorrectly. Get a good licensed contractor and get the work done right the first time and you will have less problems, stress, and headaches in the future:)
  • June 15
  • 1Yes

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Profile picture for johntcook66
I have been an unlicensed general contractor for 27 years I do business in the residential construction area no commercial work ever...I get work through word of mouth, happy customers refer me to other customers, I have never advertised beyond business cards. Lived in the same county for 47 years and know everybody...I am a sole proprietor but use day labors from time to time. I carry a million dollar liability policy and even work for some of the best builders in the area. I have always tried to keep my word and communicate well with the home owners....some of them take out the permits as needed and we have everything inspected as required by law. All these years I have done whatever I needed to do to make the home owner happy and never lied to cover up a mistake. I have never been busier than the last 6 years even during the down economy....we operate debt free 50% down payoff upon completion.....The only real problem I've had is jealous licensed builders that turn me in for OHSA inspections or some other thing trying to get me in trouble...I am compliant with those regulations... but they still are trying to cause trouble for me ...I have a family of 11 to provide for and a stay at home wife who educates our children at home.....I receive ZERO help  from any Govt. programs...I have a cpa that takes care of my taxes...so this is no fairy tale.....what can I do about these Jealous Guys??? nothing..... I know plenty of people around hear that have been taken by licensed builders but never by me....anyone can get a license, that does not make them a builder...it should be judged by the people that they have worked for not by a state entity....let the people talk and in a right to work state let us continue to provide for our families...You licensed guys can't do all the work....you just don't have the time....that is if you're any good at what you're doing..
    
  • June 15
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Profile picture for wayneborisch
 I AM IN WIS. AND THERE IS NO REQUIREMENT BY THE STATE TO HAVE A LICENSE.  UNLESS WORK  ITS RELATED TO ELEC. AND PLUMB. OR LEAD . IF YOUR STATE DOESNT HAVE A REQUIREMENT,  TALK TO YOUR CONTRACTOR AND TRY TO MAKE AN EDUCATED QUESS AS TO HIS ABILITY . VERY DIFFICULT TO DO BUT EASY TO. SAY. BELEIVE IT OR NOT THE LICENSE AND HIGH END ADVERTISING , TV AND RADIO , USUALLY OPEN THE CONSUMER UP FOR BEING TAKEN . THESE ARE THINGS, RADIO ADS ETC.  GIVE YOU THE CONSUMER CONFIDENCE IN THERE ABILITY.  BUT ABILITY HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH ADS
  • June 14
  • 1Yes

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Profile picture for sparrow17
I would recommend to go with licensed contractors. If you are looking for the licensed contractors, visit [Website removed by Zillow moderator. See our Good Neighbor Policy.]. There you will get the list of professionals for your home and review their past projects to find the best one for your home
  • June 05
  • 0Yes

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Profile picture for mstrobel1971
We had a worker no longer with us that started handing his business cards out to our customers saying he is going into his own business. He is not Licensed or Insured. Does anybody know if we should report this and to whom. He is doing work for a Realtor and we found out by an accidental text sent to us instead of the realtor.
  • May 30
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Profile picture for JSuchow0209
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  • May 29
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Profile picture for sparrow17
I would recommend to go with licensed contractors
  • May 27
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Profile picture for sparrow17
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  • May 27
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Would you think twice if you were a buyer, and considering a house that had work done by a non-licensed contractor?  Many contracts require that disclosure, and I can tell you the buyers I work with would consider that a red flag.  It is also easy to see what work was done with a permit and what wasn't, and a smart buyer or agent checks before purchasing a home.

  • March 05
  • 0Yes

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Profile picture for tdavidson184
My husband has been doing plumbing, building, tile, painting..etc..in a small town in ldaho, where he has an excellent reputation and everybody knows everybody here. He was licensed and bonded in the past, but we just couldn't afford it anymore. He recently remodled a bathroom. The people hired him knowing he was unlicensed, and love their new bathroom. They now.refuse to pay him and say they don't have to because he is unlicensed and they will report him and get him in a lot of trouble. we are in ldaho. ls there anything he can do? And what kind of trouble will he get into?
  • March 04
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Profile picture for user8857003
It doesn't take much to get a license in my state, but it takes a lot to have one revoked. Moral of the story is that a license doesn't make them trustworthy.
  • February 07
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Profile picture for user0756104
A license doesn't guarantee that the work won't be faulty, but an insured contractor will be more likely to be able to pay for the damage. Insured and unlicensed is the best way to go.
  • February 02
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people aren't going to like Gary Gooding's answer but it's true.  I think people need to use common sense.  I recently did some home renovations and used an unlicensed guy who came HIGHLY recommended.  His prices were incredibly reasonable and I know a big part of that is because he didn't have the overhead and red tape.  And as far as paying into the system goes, the way I see it, this guy is taking his money and providing for his family so the money is working it's way back into our economy far better than how the govt spends it!!!!!

I will also say that I was new to the area and not working (we moved for my fiancee's job) so I was around every day to oversee everything which helped make me feel a lot better about it.  Lord knows there are plenty of bad unlicensed contractors out there but there are also plenty of lousy licensed contractors.
  • April 21 2014
  • 4Yes

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I was a California licensed contractor and now I am not.  I have many years experience but always worked for a company that had a contractor licence and did not need one myself working for them.  The company owners did not know how to do any of the work, only the unlicensed workers did. The company had to have huge markups to cover huge overhead.  After getting my licence I noticed that it was a waste of money to renew.  Yes you can get bonded and insured without a licence without any problem.  You can get a local business licence without a contractor licence. You can belong to the BBB without a contractor licence.  And you can pay taxes without a unlicensed license.  My work comes from referrals of my work.  If a customer wants to complain or check me out the BBB is much better venue than any Government entity. If a customer wants a permit, they pull the permit, if a customer wants an inspection of the work they can arrange that also with the permit.  They can pay direct to the city or pay more through a licensed contractor. 
The State has no budget to enforce, respond, investigate any claims from home owners. My clients are protected by insurance and I am protected by an industry secret.  
  • April 21 2014
  • 2Yes

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Profile picture for user828273
I'm sorry folks but the Registrar of Contractors is designed to make money for their state, period. The test to become a licensed contractor does not ask you one question about the aspect of contracting you wish to perform. Laying carpet, setting tile, painting, framing, it doesn't matter, you do not have to know anything in order to pass a licensing exam. The test is comprised of questions about taxes, fees, workmans comp, OSHA and items regarding your financial responsibilities to the government. It is the Registrar of Contractors who wishes to convince an innocent public there is some kind of security in hiring a licensed contractor above another in order to justify their existence, not to protect you. Some of the best work I have ever had done was by a small one man outfit with a business license but not a contractors license and some of the worst experiences I have had have been with licensed contractors.
  • March 31 2014
  • 1Yes

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Profile picture for RickeyAllen

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  • June 28 2013
  • 0Yes

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It is never "okay" to use an un-licensed contractor. If the contractor is not licensed, they will be unable to get insured and put you, the homeowner, at risk. If they are the lowest in cost, you have to understand why. Any reputable contractor should be able to produce both license and insurance, and offer a No Money Down program to make the project risk free for you.
  • December 14 2012
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No. No. Never. You must only hire contractors that a license and carry workers compensation. If they are uninsured and should have an accident on your property YOU will be responsible and could end up with significant medical expenses.
  • December 14 2012
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Profile picture for pgpeaches
so many contractors get cuts from other handymen that do the work under their license, but they don't do the job themselves.
  • December 11 2012
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Profile picture for pgpeaches
only those who's jobs are in jeopardy or the lawyers have something to say detrimental to the group described.
  • December 11 2012
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If you're having a big job done and someone comes in and tells you they are competent to do it but don't have a license, you kind have to ask why they don't have a license.   I've seen a lot of real estate transactions collapse because of shoddy work that the home inspector discovers and that the prospective buyers don't want to deal with repairing.   How did that shoddy work get by the building inspector when it was done, you ask?  Easy -- the building inspector never saw it because no permits were pulled, because the contractor didn't have a license and couldn't pull the permits.   State laws vary, but there's a reason for the licensing requirements.  The bond issue people have mentioned is also an important protection.  Whatever you do, pull the permits and have the work inspected by your building inspector.   They may seem like a PIA but they can protect you from problems later. 
  • February 25 2012
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Profile picture for user84464

It is unbeliveable that "contractor" can do work without liscence and get away with it.If some one is practicing without a laywers liscence or a driver is operating with a liscence or a day care, any thing that requires a liscence, the police can be called and they will take care of it, but a unliscence contractor can go on the rampage and they know that once they are able to get off that job before they are caught then the homeowner is responsible. So they have no reason to get liscenced. We need to stop that. I have started a petition to have that be stopped. [This post has been edited for content by the Zillow Moderator. See our Good Neighbor Policy for detals.] We bought a house frrom a contractor and found out after that nothing was inspected. Now we are the ones being harrased by the city. 

  • February 16 2012
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Profile picture for sunnyview
The biggest benefit that you get hiring a contractor with a license is a Bond and an independent agency/board to complain to if thing go south. Not everyone with a license is qualified, but you have to start somewhere when you hire work out.
  • October 31 2011
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And you waited two years to post this nugget of wisdom?

Give me a call the next time you have your next electrical box fire.
  • October 30 2011
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Profile picture for ksknite
i doubt anyone commenting here has actually taken an R.O.C test before. and if you did,..shame on you because you know damn well that w/the exception of the electricians license, those tests have almost NOTHING to do w/their respective trades. 90% of the test questions are related to how and when to pay the government and o.s.h.a regulations. Also, there is certainly NOTHING in any of the tests about how to run a business SO if you say that a license somehow guarantees a minimum of ANYTHING then you are ignorant or lying. Bottom line,..don't rely on any gov't agency to protect you from anything.
  • October 30 2011
  • 6Yes

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Profile picture for FlooredAgain
Are you kidding? Who will pull the permits and if the dude damages anything in your house, you pay, brother.
  • August 08 2009
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Profile picture for DanaEv
I agree with everyone here.  We hired a contractor to oversee all the work we had done on the house before we moved in.  He was essential in that he was here at the house when we weren't, overseeing the work, and making the workers fix problems that they 'forgot' to do or some such nonsense. We called him if something didn't come out right, and he immediately had the workers back out fixing it. He was worth every penny.  He also is bonded, licensed and has a huge liability policy.  No way would we want the headache of having someone fall off a ladder and sue us!

Now, to me, there are some instances where you don't need a licensed contractor.  If you're talking more like a handyman type of job, one that is a job that is easy to do but you can't or don't have the time to do, I would do it.  But having a handyman fix small things around your house and hiring a contractor to oversee a larger project are two different animals as far as I'm concerned.  If you need something painted, perhaps a licensed person isn't needed.  If you need electrical work, or plumbing, or a wall pulled down, I wouldn't even consider it.
  • July 12 2009
  • 0Yes

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Is a person without a license really a contractor ?
Contractors are Contractors because they have a license to do a job that they are qualified for.
  • July 08 2009
  • 0Yes

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Profile picture for Jon Petersen
Perhaps the most important information that is needed is what project are you doing, and what state are you in.

  Most of the responses here are ignorant, and only a few are good. Keep in mind where those posting here have gained their perspective. My experience comes from three generations in construction.    In response to the person saying there should be a general contractor, he is wrong. Only in certain situations should you use a general contractor. This should only be done in a suituation where you are dealing with multiple trades and arent that good dealing with contractors(if you are a bleeding heart when the contractor says he needs an advance because his family is starving...it happens all the time) or have a problem forcing a contractor to complete the work in a timely manner. If you are good with contracts and doing good research on the sub, do it yourself.As far as the license, there are many who are much better qualified that do not have a license. Also, there are unqualified people that do have a license. I have seen some of the best skilled workers take years to get their license due to bureaucracy. I have also see many who are completely unqualified get their license. (our government is the licensing authority, and what they hell have they gotten right?)

  Now, regardless of skill, there are other things to consider. An unlicensed contractor will be unlikely to carry workers comp or liability, and if you have an issue with him, you cant go to the state to make a complaint, you have to sue in civil court. But the license doesnt mean that he carries insurance. You have to check to see if he has it. Most small companies dont carry it.

  Bottom line-get referrals for whoever you hire, licensed or unlicensed, and the smaller the job, the less risk hiring an unlicensed contractor. Never let payments get ahead of work completed(with the exception of the retainer-approx 10% or $1000), and before making final payment, do a walk through to ensure cleanlyness and job completion per contract, and get a release signed by all who worked on the job, and material suppliers, as if they dont get paid, you will have a lein on your house, licensed or not.
  • June 11 2009
  • 1Yes

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BEFORE  you choose or use anyone:

1. Interview several, get bids, explore their vision of your goal.
2. Inspect their work by visiting their referrals.
3. Verify their insurance / bond, or lack thereof.
4. Weigh the risks and take your best choice.
5. Pay only for results, never pay in advance.

Just by going with #5, you will weed out 90% of the ones who can hurt you the worst. Any contractor not liquid enough to work this way should send up red flags in your thinking. Some projects may require an up front materials cost but you can control payment and possession. Be careful, there are professional crooks out there, who will rip you sideways given half a chance, at every turn.
  • June 11 2009
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