Chicago roofer shut down for lack of contractor license
After melting snow in December 2007 aggravated the leaky roof on her two-flat rental property in Edgewater, Aimee Bass felt lucky to find a contractor who could immediately start work on a complete tear-off and redo. A coupon mailer for Skokie-based Williams Exteriors Inc. said the firm was licensed, and Bass assumed it was true.
It wasn't, and the experience soon turned ugly. "Until I met them, I didn't know how bad a company could be," Bass says.
Investigating the firm's status might have saved her some grief. Not only had its state roofing contractor's license expired in June 2007, state records show the firm's owner, Marc Williams, had a different license revoked in 2001.
Bass says the original estimate nearly doubled during the project. When she balked at the cost, she says Williams took a threatening tone. "He kept insisting the price would be $15,000, and if I didn't pay it they were going to leave the roof open, and if it rained that night the building would be ruined," says Bass, who joined Angie's List and found two bad reports filed against the F-rated firm.
In December, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation caught up with Williams Exteriors, ordering it to cease offering roofing services and canceling its expired license. "[Williams] cannot renew it," says Sue Hofer, IDFPR's spokeswoman.
At Williams' request, the IDFPR's administrative law judge was scheduled to review the state order Aug. 11. He'll make a recommendation to the IDFPR director, who'll make a final decision. Williams and his attorney, David Flynn, did not return several calls from Angie's List Magazine.
Roofing is one of the few home-oriented trades regulated by the state. Contractors typically are licensed and regulated by cities and suburbs. Chicago's Department of Buildings requires plumbers, electricians and general contractors to have bonding, liability insurance and to pass an exam.
The IDFPR issues licenses for the roofing contractors, who have the same requirements.
In 2008, IDFPR disciplined 24 roofing contractors, according to state records. Infractions included unprofessional conduct and working without a license. Two contractors were fined, and other penalties included revocation, suspension and nonrenewal. Williams Exteriors was not fined for being unlicensed.
Consumers should check the department's website, idfpr.com, before hiring a roofer or other licensed tradesman and to report complaints, Hofer says. "We're anxious to go after these guys, but unless we read about it in a newspaper or learn about it from a customer, we have no way of knowing," she says.
Despite her experience with Williams Exteriors, Bass still isn't a stickler for demanding licensing information. "You know why?" she asks. "I haven't hired anyone since then that I didn't get from Angie's List. It's my way of weeding out the bad ones. Even if they have a license, they can still be a bad contractor. If they have a good track record with real people, that's more important to me.
You can check the licensing status of Illinois companies online. Log in to angieslist.com for details.