Vet Oklahoma contractors for trade licensing in wake of disaster
In the aftermath of the monster tornado that devastated portions of Oklahoma last week, state officials and highly rated service providers say it’s crucial for homeowners to be especially vigilant in checking licensing regulations and hiring reputable, legally compliant companies.
Phil Ostrander, government relations liaison for the Oklahoma Construction Industries Board, says plumbers, HVAC contractors and electricians must be licensed by the state, and roofers must be registered. These contractors also must provide proof of liability insurance, and display license or registration numbers on all contracts, bids and advertising.
“That protects the homeowner and it protects the roofer,” says Donn Lipscomb, owner of highly rated Moore’s Roofing & Insulation in Oklahoma City. “I want to be able to sleep at night, so I make sure that all my licenses and insurance are up to date.”
In addition, any out-of-state contractor wishing to do work must register for an employer identification number from the Oklahoma Tax Commission and Oklahoma Employment Security Commission. They also must post a bond equal to three times the tax liability or 10 percent of any contract they get in the state.
“Keep an eye out for contractors with out-of-state tags,” Ostrander says. “That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not legal, but you should verify that the people doing your work are licensed.”
Ostrander cautions that licensed professionals are not allowed to share or loan out their license numbers, and homeowners should treat any such claims skeptically. “We haven’t seen much of that yet in the case of these storms, but it’s happened far too often in the recent past,” he says. “It’s strictly prohibited to borrow or claim to borrow a license or registration. The person doing the work is guilty of a misdemeanor for contracting without a license, which can be punished by a fine and up to a year in jail. Any contractor who loans out their license is guilty as well.”
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s office announced last week that more than 30 investigators would travel to the tornado-affected areas to check into potential scams or licensing violations.
Lipscomb warns that homeowners should take licensing seriously. “[Inspectors] can literally stop you right in the middle of a job,” he says. “So now the homeowner is stuck with a half-done roof or a half-torn-off roof, and then they have to go and find somebody who is licensed.”