Friday, February 6, 2004

Need for rehab measure doubted

Contractor advises: 'do your homework'

The Associated Press
and The Cincinnati Enquirer

COLUMBUS - Not all home-improvement contractors think a bill that would require them to register with the state of Ohio is a good idea.

Neal Hendy, president of Neal's Remodeling in Green Township, one of Cincinnati's largest home-remodeling companies, said he would not support such a bill because it would not solve the problem of consumers being defrauded by certain contractors.

Legislation requiring registration of home-improvement contractors - the No. 2 target of consumer complaints to the Attorney General's Office - will be proposed by Rep. Jim Trakas, R-Independence.

The bill revives legislation that Attorney General Jim Petro could not get passed during his tenure in the House in the 1980s. More consumers complain to his office about home-improvement rip-offs than any service besides auto sales, Petro said.

Trakas' bill has the support of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, said Brenda Callaghan, executive director of the group's greater Cleveland chapter.

But Hendy said such licensing has been in place for years in cities on the East and West coasts and has not solved the problem.

His advice to consumers: Do your homework and get references about contractors from friends and neighbors who had remodeling projects completed. He also suggested that consumers call the Better Business Bureau to check on a contractor's background.

The bill would create a board in the Ohio Department of Commerce that would license home-improvement contractors and salespeople. It would also authorize the attorney general to file civil suits on behalf of defrauded customers, and contractors could be required to pay up to three times the cost of the fraud to the customer.

Twenty-eight states have some type of licensing requirement for home-improvement contractors.

Ohio licenses electrical; heating, ventilation and air conditioning; and plumbing contractors. Kentucky licenses HVAC and plumbing contractors, while Indiana licenses only plumbers.

Trakas said unscrupulous contractors, especially those who prey on the elderly, give the rest of the industry a bad name. Many of them are paid for work that isn't finished or in some instances never started, Petro and Trakas said.

"We'd like to be able to get rid of people who don't do a good job and bring dishonor to this profession," Trakas said.

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