Occupational Licensing

States Cracking Down on Unlicensed Home Improvement Contractors

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(Mike Stocker, Sun Sentinel)

Occupational licensing boards in seven states launched a sting operation last week, catching 157 unlicensed contractors looking to work without a state permission slip. Officials in Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Utah responded to internet ads for carpeting, plumbing, HVAC, and other home improvement services, luring would-be workers to home sites where investigators waited.

Coordinated with help from the National Association of State Contractors Licensing Agencies (NASCLA), which seeks "better regulation of the construction industry to protect the health, welfare, and safety of the public," the sting is the latest in a slew of enforcement activity aimed at unlicensed home improvement contractors nationwide.

NASCLA also helped conduct a sting in June that led to 15 investigations in Arizona, 31 investigations in Oregon, 23 citations in Nevada, and 100 arrests in California. In another operation in March, police arrested 111 other would-be workers in California. As of July, Maryland has over 80 cases pending against unlicensed workers. In Florida, over 70 contractors without licenses have been arrested this year—some of them in SWAT-style raids. From the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:

"How am I supposed to provide for my family with all the restrictions?" asked one cuffed worker, John Simms, 38, a father of four from West Palm Beach. "You tell that to my kids when I don't have the money to come home."

…Curbing illegal home improvements, officials say, has been an elusive goal in South Florida amid the downturn in the economy: Unemployed workers contract without a license as an easy way to make money. And some homeowners turn a blind eye to the unlicensed work for bargain prices.

…Homeowners who don't scrutinize whether someone is licensed may inadvertently invite a criminal inside their home, officials say.

New York City officials estimate that one in five home contractors is unlicensed. The city seized 72 vehicles from unlicensed home improvement workers over two months earlier this year. From ABC News:

"We are literally canvassing neighborhoods, pulling aside anyone we see doing work and making sure they are literally licensed," NYC DCA Commissioner Jonathan Mintz said.

Reason writers have written a thing or two about occupational licensing.

Click here for To-Catch-a-Predator-like coverage of unlicensed contractors in Portland, Or.  

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  1. “We are literally canvassing neighborhoods, pulling aside anyone we see doing work and making sure they are literally licensed,” NYC DCA Commissioner Jonathan Mintz said.

    These jackboots can never get their fill of “Papieren, bitte”, can they.

    1. It always amazes me how proud these enforcers are of their actions.

    2. I’ve never seen them say “please.”

    3. But the poor local governments are understaffed and can’t possibly make any cuts without causing people to die.

  2. It’s the twelve noon massive thread dump. Thanks Reason!

  3. That photo…..holy shit.

    I mean…uhh….

    …..HOLY FUCKING SHIT.

    1. I like the thug brandishing the firearm.

      1. The drug war can be thanked for that. Now everybody gets a gun, or a machine gun pointed at them. It’s routine.

        1. That unlicensed-contractor-scum had a stack of deadly-sharp paper. You bigorati assholes have no appreciation of officer safety. I hope you and your family all bleed to death from papercuts administered by unlicensed CRIMINALS.

    2. You never know what unlicensed contractors might be building.

      They might be building terrorist training camps.

    3. Yeah, it’s really straight out of 1984.

    4. It made me shutter to, but i still looked for alt-text, which should have been:
      “Hey. HEY! You CAN’T build that”

  4. “That’s what governments are for: to get in a man’s way.”

  5. All your skills are belong to us.

  6. The city seized 72 vehicles from unlicensed home improvement workers over two months earlier this year.

    Cha-ching!!!

    1. Now we know why they are so interested in enforcing this law.

  7. “How am I supposed to provide for my family with all the restrictions?” asked one cuffed worker, John Simms

    THAT’S WHY WE HAVE FOOD STAMPS

  8. Hey, where’s Shreeek to tell us how we have a pro-business President?

    Yer doin a heckuva job, Barry!

    1. If your business is being an armed thug who terrorizes innocents, business is booming.

  9. You know, I have no idea if the guy who works on my house when I have things I can’t do has a license or not. No idea at all.

    I do know that he’s been doing high-quality honest work for my wife’s family for something like a decade. That’s the only license I need to see.

    1. You are depriving the Man of his cut.

    2. Handymen are exempt from licensing in my state. But each project has to be under 400 bucks or 200 or something. The trick is finding lots of small separate projects.

  10. Unemployed workers contract without a license as an easy way to make money. And some homeowners turn a blind eye to the unlicensed work for bargain prices.

    Employed Workers! Happy customers recieving bargain prices!
    Hulk mad! Hulk put on jack boots! Hulk smash economy!

    1. And some actively seek out the unlicensed guys because there is no reason to hire a licensed guy for twice as much to fucking paint your kitchen.

      1. A decade+ ago when I had my condo repainted I (whisper)paid in cash(/whisper).

        Of course, Im sure he was an honest citizen who paid taxes properly on that money.

        1. You think that’s sneaky. This summer I hired my brother to help me build my house and am paying him by paying his share of the taxes on a family vacation property for a few years.

      2. because there is no reason to hire a licensed guy for twice as much to fucking paint your kitchen.

        1. you’re letting a CRIMINAL into your home. CPS should take your children away, you irresponsible monster.

        2. unlicensed contractors mix their own lead-based paint in their terroristic zeal to murder your children.

        3. your unwillingness to pay twice as much flies in the face of The Living Wage concept, you greedy, capitalist, market-fellating yankee pig dog.

  11. I like the thug brandishing the firearm.

    Officer safety!!!!!!!! That “contractor” has a pencil.

    1. I shoulda read further down before posting above. I’m going to maintain that that stack-a-paper is more dangerous. It’s like rapid-fire Assault Stationary.

  12. You didn’t improve that.

    1. Perhaps he can claim the fact that Government built the roads he drove there on was entrapment.

  13. A few of us were fixing the front porch of a building belonging to our church once. A local contractor drove by a gave us the stick-eye. Sure enough, the local inspector shows up a half-hour later and shuts us down because nobody was a licensed contractor.

    I made sure to bad-mouth the turf-protecting contractor who squealed all over town.

    1. stink-eye

      And good for you.

    2. “Thou shalt not horn in on thy neighbor’s racket.”

    3. I made sure to bad-mouth the turf-protecting contractor who squealed all over town.

      Probably also illegal. Expect another visit.

  14. It’s for the licensed contractors’ children.

  15. This is how the government grows the economy: by not allowing people to work.

  16. If the US consulate in Benghazi had that kind of firepower on tap the ambassador might still be out there shillin for Obama.

  17. It’s getting increasingly hard to distinguish between “The Onion” and reality…

    1. Reality is the one that bleeds.

  18. This is the stuff that really fills me with rage.

    I know the tax stuff is #1 for most of you guys, but not for me.

    If I read that one of these guys went crazy and turned his van into a homemade tank and took out the state legislature, I’d applaud like a motherfucker. I’d give one standing O for every legislator death.

    1. You need a permit for converting a van.

    2. It’s not like they don’t have Killdozer capabilities.

    3. I’ve been the same way lately. This is the shit that right now is preventing people from going out and doing useful work and making money. Shit like this has far more impact on the economy than any tax policy, especially on poorer people who need jobs. Not to mention that it is an essential violation of a person’s right to hire whomever he damn well pleases to work for him.

      1. I’m with you. The economy could have fixed itself a long time ago if people were allowed to engage in economic activity without first asking permission, and then having to take orders.
        I have several hobbies that I could easily make money with, except I can’t afford to jump through the hoops required to do so legally.

        1. Once in a while you will hear some liberal lamenting how the great society programs can never be paid for without some miracle productivity growth. If they would just let people do what they want and make a living, they would have their miracle.

          1. But John, that would be anarchy!
            People doing their own thing without asking permission and taking orders?
            How will they know how to do it correctly without government supervision?
            What you propose is madness!
            Madness!

          2. You got it all wrong John. Once you let people think they can just do work in exchange for compensation, without Big Daddy Gov’t giving permission, suddenly they feel empowered to keep said compensation instead of letting parasites flush it down the drain.

        2. I briefly considered snail farming a few years ago….then I discovered all the regulations involved…..fuck it.

    4. Me too. And what makes it especially infuriating is the people who most support it will tell you that they care the most about the poor and working people of this country.

      1. This has been my approach lately with my dumbass lefty friends (when I can’t avoid a discussion of politics; it’s getting really fucking depressing lately. It’s amazing how much people just parrot talking points they hear without knowing what they are talking about.). Try to explain how regulation like this hurts the poor an unemployed far more than it prevents big evil corporations from doing bad things.

    5. I dont see a distinction.

  19. And a big part of the problem is organizations like the National Association of State Contractors Licensing Agencies (NASCLA). Generally, government employees are prevented from lobbying elected officials. But they get around this by forming organizations like NASCLA, which can lobby. To make matters worse, the bureaucrats’ dues are often paid for by the agencies that employ said bureaucrats.

  20. If I had somebody working on my property and a bunch of cops pulled up to check their papieren, I believe I would meet the cops at the door and ask to see their warrant, and tell them not to come back until they had one.

    No way these little sweeps are getting papered up to justify cops going onto private property.

    1. I would meet the cops at the door and ask to see their warrant

      At which point they would threaten to take you to jail for interfering with police business, and then carry out their threat if you did not step aside.
      You might even get charged with assault for breaking one of their hands with your face.

    2. They get around warrants when civil bureaucracy is being administered.

  21. If I read that one of these guys went crazy and turned his van into a homemade tank and took out the state legislature, I’d applaud like a motherfucker.

    Or if somebody “accidentally” dropped a pallet of cinderblocks on one of those pigs.

    1. Better: ” Hey officer smith! I put in your kitchen last spring. You get that paperwork filed with the IRS?”

    2. I’m not comfortable condoning murder, even in revenge. But if they steal your truck, and you “accidentally” drop a load of bricks on their empty police cruiser, now that would be comical.

      1. I don’t share your discomfort. Especially since the cop would probably beat the shit out of the guy who ruined his car.

  22. Awesome. Let’s take one area where it has been relatively easy to actually start your own business and make decent money working independently and put up some big barriers to entry. That should help the unemployment problem. Fuckers. I bet anything that carpenters unions and big time contractors are the major backers of the licensing laws.

    1. I bet anything that carpenters unions and big time contractors are the major backers of the licensing laws.

      Somehow I don’t see homeowners lobbying for legislation that makes home improvements more expensive, so, ummm, yeah.

  23. Unemployed workers contract without a license as an easy way to make money. And some homeowners turn a blind eye to the unlicensed work for bargain prices.

    Imagine that — a down economy fixing itself if the government gets out of the way.

    Homeowners who don’t scrutinize whether someone is licensed may inadvertently invite a criminal inside their home, officials say.

    And any without a state license is by definition a criminal, so it’s for your own good. Even if it costs you more.

    New York City officials… seized 72 vehicles from unlicensed home improvement workers over two months earlier this year.

    Not only will we keep them from endangering homeowners by offering cheap skilled labor, we’ll steal their trucks to help city revenues!

    We are literally canvassing neighborhoods, pulling aside anyone we see doing work and making sure they are literally licensed,” NYC DCA Commissioner Jonathan Mintz said.

    We wouldn’t want too many people “doing work” now, would we?

  24. Given that I’ve yet to deal with an occupation with more frauds, shysters and downright crooks than building contractors, in this case I’ll make an exception and give my blessings to whatever grief the government, or anyone else, can give them. 9 out of ten times you’ll be better off just burning your house down and using the insurance to buy a new one than hiring one of those scoundrels.

    1. There are ways to evaluate contractors that don’t involve state licensing agencies, you know…. the BBB, Angie’s List, references….

    2. 9 out of ten times you’ll be better off just burning your house down and using the insurance to buy a new one than hiring one of those scoundrels.

      And the 10th time you hire an unlicensed contractor who does the job quickly, safely and well at a reasonable price because he doesn’t have the state keeping him in business by force.

    3. You are a huge part of the problem Old Johnnie. The nation would be better off if you were decomposed in the soil. At least you would be providing something.

    4. You don’t suppose being protected from competition has anything to do with their poor business practices, do you, Old J?

    5. And people with licenses can’t be dishonest or do poor work, why? This must be a very powerful license to be able to accomplish such miracles.

  25. Unemployed workers contract without a license as an easy way to make money. And some homeowners turn a blind eye to the unlicensed work for bargain prices.

    God forbid both buyers and sellers benefit from voluntary economic transaction. The portrayal of this as somehow naughty is disgusting. We are fucking dooooooooomed.

  26. Next up: Mowing lawns without a license.

    1. You joke, but think of what would happen if some kid tried to make a few bucks mowing lawns like I (and you too probably) used to do as a kid.

      Cops would probably confiscate the mower and threaten to take the kid to jail.

      1. Hard to make the argument lawnmowers are some how safer than lemon juicers.

        1. Hell, that could be child endangerment.

          Especially if the kid was pushing a lawnmower down the street without supervision.

          1. Little Johnny leaves the house with the lawnmower.
            Cop get a new lawnmower, CPS gets Johnny, and Dad goes to jail.
            Everybody wins!

      2. i pay my 10 yr old nephew to mow my lawn.

        so, am i an accessory before the fact – child endangerment?

        i did put a warning sticker on it “Do not apply blade to genitals”.

        so, i think i’m covered

        1. There is a difference between you paying a family member to mow your lawn, and that 10 yr old knocking on doors in his neighborhood offering to mow lawns for cash.

          I’m sure that the latter is somehow illegal since I doubt the kid is licensed or insured.

        2. http://www.flickr.com/photos/m…..501142478/

          DANGER: AVOID DEATH

          1. local high school has a sign “firearms prohibited”

            (fwiw, WA actually does allow firearms on elementary, high school etc. campuses. an exception is written into the law for those picking up kids who may possess the firearm as long as they stay in the parking lot/drive with it. which, assuming you are going to ban gunz in schools, it’s a good exception since otherwise, parents who carry would be proper fucked

            also, WA does not prhibit guns on college campuses!

            but the above sign made me thing of the one i saw at a high school in auburn

            “Criminal Activity Prohibited”

            I can just see the effectiveness of this sign.

            Criminal walks up, ready to commit acts of mayhem. Sees sign. Looks at ground … FUCK DAMMIT!!!… Turns around and walks back off campus

            1. Wouldn’t criminal activity always and everywhere be prohibited? Might as well say “prohibited activity is prohibited”.

      3. That kid would get accidentally deported.

  27. No one is allowed to do anything without first asking permission from the government, and then the free market is blamed for the shitty economy.

    Free country my ass.

  28. Everything not Mandatory is Prohibited.

  29. When MN had its big government shutdown in the summer of 2011, the main reason that (at least I think it was) it ended was that people were getting a good glimpse of just what a protection racquet the gubbment was running.

    Other than not opening the rest areas on the highways, most people were pretty pressed to name something that was shut down that they needed.

    The problem became that the liquor stores could’t sell certain brands of beer because they couldn’t get a license renewed. Same with cigarettes. Nothing had changed except you couldn’t get your slip of paper proving you had paid your grift.

    The gov caved before too many people were deprived of smokes and beer. I think he worried that the avg taxpayer would begin demanding that the whole thing get shut down and people be allowed to sell what they wanted.

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