Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Contractors face deadline to register

Express Staff Writer

The success of a new law requiring contractors to register with the state rests largely with city and county building departments.

The Contractor Registration Act, which was passed last winter by the Legislature, applies to anyone who makes a "change to real property in excess of $2,000," said Rayola Jacobsen, bureau chief of the Bureau of Occupational Licenses, which is administering the new law. "The idea was brought forward by a group of concerned citizens and a building contractor association." The act takes effect in January.

Jacobsen said some 1,500 contractors have registered since the list was opened. The registration fee is $30 and requires proof of insurance. Unregistered contractors face a fine of $1,000 and up to six months in jail.

"They're coming in very fast now," Jacobsen said. "The (governor-appointed Idaho Contractors Board) is reviewing 300 more applications on Tuesday. A lot of contractors are waiting until they start work, but I don't recommend that."

The law covers all contractors, but it does include a "handyman" exemption for workers who make less than $2,000 in improvements.

The purpose of the new law is to add consumer protection for homeowners seeking contractor services and to provide a lien position for builders trying to collect on outstanding bills.

"The main goal is to provide a list of folks who have registered," Jacobsen said, adding that the law also allows for a list of contractors who have faced some kind of disciplinary action, which could include an investigation and legal action by the attorney general. "The public can access the disciplinary action list."

Licensed plumbers and electricians are not required to register unless they do work outside of their main trade, like painting, drywall work or framing.

"If you are a plumber and you (also) paint you have to register," Jacobsen said, adding that there is no licensing requirement included in the law for other contractors.

The success of the program depends largely on participation of city and county building departments, however.

"Locals have a lot of influence," said Building Bureau Chief Jack Rayne with the Idaho Division of Building Safety, who said it is too early to tell if the law will be an effective consumer and contractor protection. "It depends on whether (contractors) are going to be allowed to get building permits."

The application to be on the list requires that contractors show proof of liability insurance and a workers' compensation program for employees.

Jacobsen confirmed that it is up to local entities to decide whether or not a registered contractor is required before a building permit is issued.

Hailey's building official, Dave Ferguson, said he is in the process of updating the city's building permit cards to include contractor registration numbers. Ferguson said it is up to the homeowner to decide whether or not they employ a registered contractor.

"There is no licensing or testing for (contractor) licenses in Idaho," he said. "This is the first step to that point. Hopefully, in five years everybody will have to be licensed."

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