PORTLAND -- The State of Oregon is cracking down on unlicensed contractors.
This is the time of year when home-improvement projects get started and state investigators say there are more unlicensed contractors ripping people off than they can keep up with.
If you hire an unlicensed contractor to do some work on your home and something goes wrong, often you are simply out of luck, with no recourse. Scammers, thieves and shady contractors are going door to door looking for easy money.
So how big of a problem are unlicensed contractors?
“Oh it’s a huge problem, we run across it every day,” said Tim Lenihan, an investigator with the Oregon Construction Contractors Board.
Lenihan said these scammers have been at it for weeks.
Fern Mathews was ripped-off for thousands of dollars by an unlicensed contractor promising to pave her driveway.
“He said for what I've done it's about 47 and if you want me to finish off the driveway, it'd be six thousand more,” Mathews said.
But despite the warnings, these shady contractors continue to do shoddy work, demand money up front, and sometimes leave without doing any work.
“Anybody that shows-up on your doorstep soliciting business that wants to do it right now, today.. take a pause,” said Lenihan.
One of the biggest local contract scammers is currently behind bars.
Investigators say 42-year old Jeffrey Woodhouse, from Vancouver is a construction con-man. Woodhouse is now headed to prison for 13 months for working as an unlicensed contractor and stealing from an elderly couple who hired him to do work around their home.
Legitimate contractors say these con-men give the business a bad name, but they understand the mind of a criminal.
“It only takes one or two jobs working under the table for somebody to be ahead of the game,” said Eric Hernanz, of Hernanz Painting Co.
Hernanz is a licensed contractor who’s been in business 22 years. He does things by the book and said these scammers are not only giving the construction business a bad name, they’re also stealing from legitimate businesses trying to make an honest living.
“They're the ones who are having payroll taxes taken out of their paychecks and they're contributing to society and they're reward is less work because others are cheating the system,” Hernanz said.
The Construction Contractors Board is working every day to put a stop to these unlicensed contractors. But it’s a tough fight. There are a lot of them.
For Fern Mathews, investigators say they’re getting close to catching the scammers who made off with thousands of dollars of her money and left her a paved driveway worth a couple hundred dollars.
“And he just kept talking back and forth till I was just a nervous wreck,” Methews said.
Let the buyer beware really does apply when it comes to unlicensed contractors.
Most carry no insurance and are not bonded. Before you hire anyone to work on your home, check them out on the Construction Contractors Board website at Oregon.gov/CCB. The contractors search is right on the home page.