Officials: Choose building contractors carefully

By Jean Verlich: CNJ news editor

With many area residents beginning home improvement projects at this time or fixing damage from the March 23 tornado, city officials advise: Hire licensed contractors.

Clovis city building safety director Pete Wilt said New Mexico requires contractors to be licensed and homeowners should ask to see their license when soliciting a bid. He said they will have a wallet-sized license to show.

Contractors can be licensed to do general building projects or specific work, such as roofing, electric or plumbing.

“We try to urge everybody to use licensed contractors because that protects the homeowners and their investment,” Wilt said. “An unlicensed contractor, you really can’t go back on him unless you are going to take him to court. And then by the time you are going to take him to court, he’s probably not even in this state anymore.”

Wilt said he usually sees only about 15 to 20 code violation complaints a year.

Ask for license

Roger LeClear Jr., owner of Big Sky Roofing, said he doesn’t typically get asked about being licensed. He thinks that has to do with his advertising in the telephone book.

“They just assume,” said LeClear, who advises homeowners to hire local contractors and get a warranty.
“The best recommendation is to make sure they have a licensed contractor and to use a local guy,” said LeClear, who’s been in business six years.

“If you have a problem with the roof and he’s out of town … the warranty may not mean much,” LeClear said.
He also suggested homeowners “be patient.” On roof repairs, for example, if the roof isn’t leaking, take the time to hire a contractor with a guarantee.

If the roof is leaking, until a full repair can be made, a temporary patch can be done and insurance may cover the work, LeClear said.

Insurance is a must

Todd Farrell, a director and secretary for the Home Builders Association of Eastern New Mexico, advises homeowners that it is important to hire insured contractors, even those who are sole proprietors.
“Make sure they have the proper insurance,” Farrell said.

He said they should have workers compensation insurance that will pay for medical care for physical injuries and permanent health damage suffered on the job and even lost wages.

Otherwise, the homeowner can be sued, Farrell said.

The contractor should be able to show a standardized insurance document called an Accord form from an insurance company, he said.

Contractor checklist

• Contractor should be licensed with the state of New Mexico.
• Contractor should have a city of Clovis business license.
• A building permit is needed from the city of Clovis. Wilt said let the contractor get it. It facilitates resolution of any code violations since the city will go to the person who applied for the permit.
• Check for insurance.

Reporting problems

• File a complaint with the Construction Industries Division of the New Mexico Regulations and Licensing Department in Santa Fe.
• Obtain forms from Construction Industries Division online at http://rld.state.nm.us/cid/ or call 524-6320, ext. 4; or from the Clovis building safety department, 321 Connelly St.
• Call the Clovis building safety department at 769-7829.