Sun City, other homeowners have recourse

Ways to avoid bad contractors, fix errors

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Renovating a home is a major project for homeowners and there is a lot to handle even when contractors do the work. The burden becomes worse when contractors do a poor job.

Homeowners have some recourse when dealing with a contractor that does not live up to expectations. All Arizona residents can access the Registrar of Contractors for help. In most planned communities, residents can also turn to their homeowners association to resolve issues and even find the best contractor from the start through a vendor referral program.

But even with those agencies in place, it is not an easy road to travel. Sun City residents Richard and Carol Atwood can attest to that.

“This has been a nightmare from the start, and as much as we’ve tried, we can’t get satisfactory resolution when trying to work directly with the contractor,” Mr. Atwood said.

Some of the problems the Atwoods experienced with their contractor included problems with footers on a concrete slab for an extended room, improperly installed windows, cabinets and sliding glass door, garage wiring installed contrary to the homeowner’s instructions, birds entering the home through an uncovered demolished wall, and damaged floor tiles not repaired properly.

The Atwoods turned to the Sun City Home Owners Association for help getting the issues resolved, but they were disappointed with the results. They then turned to the Registrar of Contractors, filing a complaint in September.

“Neither the contractor or ROC offered any positive resolutions,” Mr. Atwood stated in a Dec. 26 email. “We will be filing legal action against the contractor.”

Breanna Bang, ROC public information liaison, said all complaints about licensed contractors are assigned to investigators who visit the construction site and talk with the contractor and complainant. If problems are verified, a directive to resolve the issues is written and given to the contractors, she explained.

“If the problems are not fixed, it is sent to our legal team,” Ms. Bang said.

However, the number of contractor complaints is low, she said.

“More than 95% of licensed contractors don’t have complaints,” Ms. Bang said.

Investigations are also conducted for complaints about unlicensed contractors. But a court prosecutor decides whether charges will be filed, according to Ms. Bang.

The ROC has a residential recovery fund homeowners can access to get projects that generate a complaint completed, according to Ms. Bang.

Most residents in municipalities live in HOAs and have that resource to use when having difficulties with a contractor. But not all HOAs have vendor referral programs, especially smaller HOAs. Northwest Valley municipalities have no such resources for residents.

“The city of Glendale does not handle or deal with contractor complaints,” Jay Crandall, Glendale public information officer, stated in an email. “At this time, we do not provide residents with a vendor referral list.”

While officials in Peoria and Surprise did not respond to the Independent’s request for information on these questions, no such programs are listed on their websites. Peoria does supply contact information for a variety of assistance services, including the ROC, the Arizona Corporation Commission, the Better Business Bureau and Community Legal Services.

Residents living in the Sun Cities have a vendor referral list available through their main community HOAs — the Sun City Home Owners Association and the Property Owners and Residents Association of Sun City West. Both agencies put applicants for the program through a thorough vetting process.

“They fill out an application form and provide license and insurance information and references, and all that is checked out,” said Tom Wilson, SCHOA general manager. “We also ask users to provide their feedback on contractors they have used.”

If negative impact is received, SCHOA officials talk to the contractor to try and find resolution. If that fails, the contractor is suspended from the program until the issues are fixed, according to Mr. Wilson. Contractors will also be suspended if there are multiple unresolved complaints, he added.

“If there are even more complaints, they get dropped from the list,” Mr. Wilson said.

PORA officials contacted by the Independent regarding that agency’s vendor referral program did not want to be directly quoted. But the PORA program is very similar to SCHOA’s.

Mr. Wilson said there are 288 active businesses on SCHOA’s referral list. He said the agency averages about one complaint per month.

“We have not suspended anyone lately,” he added. “They (businesses) know it’s a good system and want to stay on it.”

Ms. Bang said residents should always hire licensed contractors. She also suggested license numbers provided by contractors should be checked through the ROC to make sure they are legitimate and current.

“And always hire someone who is licensed for the work you want done,” she said. “You wouldn’t want a plumber doing your electrical, unless they are dual licensed.”

She said ROC officials are available to answer questions about scope of work and other issues before selecting a contractor, and the ROC has a free contractor search available on its website, roc.az.gov.

“We discourage residents from hiring door-to-door solicitors,” Ms. Bang said. “The key for hiring any contractor is to do your due diligence and check them out.”

She also said homeowners should never pay their contractor in cash.

“You want that paper trail if you should end up in court,” Ms. Bang said.

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