Action Line: Beware of unlicensed contractors

Hawaii residents are being cheated out of hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dollars by unlicensed contractors. From simple jobs like fixing a rock wall to making major renovations to your home or business, finding the right person for the job at the right price can be a daunting task.

“Unlicensed contracting just continues to be a problem in this state – unlicensed electrical work, unlicensed plumbing work,” said Daria Loy-Goto of the State Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, Chief Complaints and Enforcement Officer.

But the state’s Regulated Industries Complaints Office has some advice. “We really do encourage people to try to be careful about who they hire and definitely always ask if the person is licensed,” said Loy-Goto.

That’s especially important for senior citizens, since they usually end up the victims. “We see a lot of cases where seniors will answer the door and be approached and asked, maybe even made representations to,” said Loy-Goto.

Also, do your own research on the company and its performance record. “A licensed contractor would never ask you for cash up front,” said Morris Kaneshiro, an electrician for more than 40 years and a member of the state Board of Electricians and Plumbers.

He says while it’s tempting to hire an unlicensed contractor, it may end up costing you in the long run. “Whenever you do a renovation you have to make sure it comes up to the most recent code,” said Kaneshiro. “A lot of these guys who try to make fast buck won’t do that.”

Last year, the state received 354 inquiries regarding contractors.

“The most important thing that we tell consumers is we want to hear from them,” said Loy-Goto. “We want to hear from them if they’ve run into problems. We may not be able to fix their problem a hundred percent, but any action our office takes may protect somebody else down the road.”

Click here to visit the DCCA’s Regulated Industries Complaints Office website.

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