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4:33 AM Mon, Jan. 21st

Letter: Being licensed is no guarantee

The article, "Registrar sees leveling trend for contractors," was very biased and degrading to legitimate honest handymen. Not all handymen are sleazy fly-by-night con artists that make money upfront and run away or do shoddy work. I realize that there is that element in the neighborhoods, but to generalize and label all handymen as crooks is not only a misstatement of truth but it borders on mass libel.

You didn't mention that there is a law on the books called "The Handyman Act" that gives a "craftsman" the right to ply his trade and make a living for himself and his family, without the dubious distinction of a "contractor's license."

I say dubious because, like handymen, not all contractors are what they are supposed to be. As a retired contractor, I can relate many instances where folks have been ripped off by licensed contractors without the "ROC" (Registrar of Contractors), remedies quoted in your article. Handymen are allowed to work jobs of $1,000 without becoming licensed.

There are many folks with a need for the services of a contractor or handyman that cannot afford the elevated cost of big business and attempt to maintain the appearance and integrity of their homes by paying an experienced person to work for them. Without that assistance, their homes would deteriorate and eventually become unsafe.

Many retired people living on fixed income (sometimes very low) need this help. The problem is they often place their faith in the wrong person whether it is a handyman or a contractor.

The only part of your article that was of benefit to anyone was the advice to check references (at least three) and if possible look at a job completed by the contractor or handyman. Check the license plate on the handyman's or contractor's vehicle that is giving you the estimate.

Check the phone book to see if he is listed. If it is an out-of-state plate, decline their services. Even licensed contractors can be from another state.

As one of your references, ask for the phone number of a neighbor where the individual lives. A neighbor can often tell you the truth about how long they have lived there, whether they are renting or buying and other useful information. Don't be lulled into complacency by promises and a low price.

Get several prices unless you already know the individual you want to do your work. Ask friends and neighbors if they know someone that they have had do work for them. Don't be in a hurry; check them out.

Another safeguard is to buy the materials for the job you need done and pay for the labor when the job is finished satisfactorily. Local hardware stores or building supply stores are happy to help you estimate the materials you will need. Compare their estimate with the contractor's or handyman's figures. You can pay for the materials and leave them at the store on "Will Call" to be picked up by the individual doing the work if you don't have a way to haul them.

If you cannot get to the location where the work is being done (roof, crawl space, attic), ask a relative, friend or neighbor to check it out before you pay for the job.

Never accept work from someone who comes to your house with the story that they are working in the neighborhood and have some material left. You can check with the ROC, but do your own checking as well. You will be glad you did.

Duane Mark