Investigations at more than 100 job sites in Eastern Oregon revealed 33 possible contractor violations.
The Oregon Construction Contractors Board reported field investigators conducted the sweep last week through Malheur, Grant, Baker, Umatilla, Union and Wallowa counties. Stan Jessup, enforcement program manager for the board, said there are no violations at this point, only allegations.
The possible violations include eight unlicensed contractors and nine contractors working without a lead-based paint license, according to a report from the board. Other violations included failure to display contractor numbers on advertisements and failure to provide a written contract for jobs in excess of $2,000. The majority of violations involved home improvement and remodeling projects.
Jessup explained the field investigators visit the sites, look into problems and write up and send reports about possible violations back to headquarters in Salem. Further investigation determines if any were an actual violation. Each case takes about a month or two, and the board at the end of each month publishes its list of final orders assessing civil fines to contractors in the state.
The board issued 63 penalties statewide for September, with 10 in Eastern Oregon counties.
Six of the offenses occurred in Malheur County, with Schneider Tree Service & Construction making four violations for failure to provide information to homeowners and in one case not having a written contract. The board fined the company a total of $900. College Place Heating & Air Conditioning, of College Place, Washington, was the lone offender in Umatilla County. It received a $1,000 fine for working without a license.
Under Oregon laws, nearly everyone who repairs, remodels or builds a home must have a contractor’s license with the board. Homeowners seeking a contractor to perform work can verify the license on the CCB’s website at http://search.ccb.state.or.us/search/.
Homeowners also can check for the residential endorsement, which the state requires to have for residential work, and the lead-based paint license, which contractors must have to work on homes built before 1978.
Hiring licensed contractors gives homeowners access to the board’s mediation process for disputes with their contractor. Licensed contractors also have a bond and insurance. Jessup said those cover property damage, incomplete work and injuries to the contractor or its employees. The fella off of Craigslist might seem like a good deal, but Jessup warned that guy can take your deposit and disappear.
“And you get nothing, then,” he said. “It’s more about protection for the consumer than anything else, really.”
Eric McLauchlin, lead investigator for the board, explained in a written statement contractors can run into trouble when their subcontractor’s license expires during a job. The board provides contractors with e-Watch, a free online license monitoring tool, which they can access through their CCB account at www.oregon.gov/ccb.
Like others, Jessup said he has heard there are too few contractors in Oregon, but he questioned how to measure or assess if that’s indeed real. Oregon’s number of license contractors peaked in 2007 with around 46,000, he said, while today the state has about 40,000.
Many left the industry in the wake of the Great Recession, some retired, and now some are coming back. He also said there may be a slight trend up in complaints or violations, but the board has not seen a spike that might come with a shortage.
The Oregon Construction Contractors Board also publishes a “buyer beware” list of shady operators: