State Government

Contractor Law An Exercise in Futility

Idaho’s Bureau of Occupational Licensing has been busy for the past year implementing a law passed by the 2005 legislature requiring contractors to register.

They have found no violations and are currently investigating 40 complaints. The law is administered haphazardly at best. Boise City requires registration before a permit is issued, but Ada County claims the state law does not require building permit issuing agencies (counties) to require compliance with the state law…they issue permits to unregistered contractors.

While there are no provisions (or funding) for cities and counties to enforce the new law, these local governments issue building permits and it seems logical they should not issue permits to unregistered builders…sort of like giving a taxi permit to someone who doesn’t have a driver’s license.

In November 2005 some estimates claimed there are 20-25,000 contractors who would be subject to the law. Today the state tells us 17,000 have paid their fees, obtained insurance and registered. They expect more.

In simple terms the law says anyone engaged in construction—everything from excavation to “altering and improving” a building, road bridge, etc. is subject to the registration law.

However there are exemptions for agriculture, mining, logging, projects under $2,000 and projects by owners. Bottom line: silly law, hassle for just about all involved and no benefit to society–except the insurance guys who made a bundle off the 17,000 who were honest or scared enough to register.

Anyone who does any work as a “contractor” and is not an employee must register. Both parties are in violation, according to the law if work is performed without contractor registration. Right!

Comments & Discussion

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  1. Hmmm. Maybe I’d argue that it is a feeble first step but not necessarily silly. I sometimes work in the front lines of civil disputes between contractors and property owners and I know too many people that had no recourse against unscrupulous contractors whose sole claim to the title was the dog and the pickup. Also the law is somewhat self enforcing because failure to register removes the ability for them to file liens on properties upon which they perform services.

    The good contractors cost more because they internalize the cost of doing business. Its comforting for me to know that the person remodelling my house is required to be insured. Sure we could do this ourselves but just how many people do you know that require proof of insurance before they hire the guy. Commonly, nobody asks that unless and until something goes horribly wrong. I applaud the contractor’s efforts to police themselves. It allows the local consumers of their services some assurance that they are going to get what they contracted for and enables registered contractors the ability to enforce payment against the value of the land that their sweat has improved.

    Guardian are you advocating a fleet of enforcement officers stationed in every County? I certainly don’t see the sense in an aggresive approach to enforcement. The passive role adopted by the Bureau in demonstrating why its in everyone’s best interest seems good enough for me. But I do agree that methods remain on the table that could raise the level of professionalism much more and would stave off potential disputes between contracting parties.

    EDITOR NOTE–We advocate refusal to issue building permits unless the contractor is registered. Boise REFUSES to issue to unregistered contractor, Ada County issues and claims it’s not their job to check. IF the law is to protect consumers, then enforce the law and protect the consumer! Net effect of this law has been to sell 17,000 insurance policies and not much else.

  2. You are both correct and both incorrect, same as me.

  3. My husband and I are one of the 17,000 that were scared enough to purchase the 2 kinds of insurance that are required to get a contractor license. Since we own the business neither one of the insurances will cover any harm that might occur to us. We did not have to prove ANY competency in our field, undergo a background check, or otherwise qualify for the title of “contractor”. The result of this is that we now have a card to carry in our wallet and a quite lovely ‘license’ to hang on our wall. We are also currently considering careers in insurance…

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