Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Moeller resumes mission for consumers, honest tradespeople

Everyone’s heard the old proverb “You get what you pay for.” And no doubt everyone’s also very familiar with the trusty maxim “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” State Rep. Jim Moeller is determined to employ those two good bits of advice in putting the kibosh on bogus electricians, plumbers and other unqualified tradespeople.

His goal is to secure stronger protection both for consumers who want to hire qualified workers and for aboveboard contractors who don’t want to hire unqualified workers.

Since Moeller’s proposal hasn’t cleared legislative hurdles in the past few years, the Vancouver Democrat vows to restart his work in the upcoming session. His measure, House Bill 1055, would write state law requiring that tradespeople keep their licenses and certificates with them whenever they’re on the job. These subcontractors would need to show their paperwork if a homeowner asks to see it.

As it stands now, state law requires subcontractors in the building trades to obtain the appropriate licenses and certificates of competency and qualification. People who ignore the current law, as well as contractors and others who hire them, can face civil penalties. You might want to check this state Department of Labor & Industries Web site for information about hiring a contractor.

“The goal in this new law is simply to stop the dishonest, dangerous underground construction industry – particularly the deceitful hiring of unlicensed and uncertified tradespeople,” Moeller explained. “All we want is for these folks to possess evidence that they do indeed hold the right credentials and the right certification for the job.”

All too often, unlicensed and uncertified subs are hired to do some part of a project for less money. So then a consumer might think to himself or herself, ‘Oh, lucky me – this job isn’t costing as much as I thought it would!’ But remember that old proverb and that trusty maxim: There’s probably a very unfortunate reason the job’s costing less money. Moeller noted that folks “generally do get exactly what they pay for. And if they have safety or other problems later on, they’ll certainly wish they’d known more about the honor and professionalism of their contractors and subcontractors.”

Moeller also pointed out that underground contracting isn’t just a threat to consumer safety and peace of mind. It also gives bad-apple contractors an unfair business advantage over contractors who conduct their operations the right way.

Stay tuned. We’ll keep you posted as this tradespeople-licensure legislation makes its way through the process in this year’s session.