Lee County building officials offer advice for homeowners affected by recent tornadoes

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Special to the
Opelika Observer

Each year, homeowners and business people lose thousands of dollars to unlicensed individuals posing as contractors.
Unfortunately, these unscrupulous individuals tend to prey on victims during their most vulnerable times; such as in the aftermath of the catastrophic tornadoes that struck our communities on March 3.
The Lee County Building Inspections Department is committed to doing all we can to protect the public health, safety and welfare of the citizens of Lee County. One way we do so is by requiring building permit applicants to provide verification showing they have the knowledge and skills needed to perform the work in addition to possessing the proper license.
Our office, along with the Alabama Home Builders Licensure Board, the Alabama Licensing Board for General Contractors, and the Lee County Sheriff’s Department is further committed to protecting our citizens from illegal contractors by offering the following suggestions:
• Newspaper, social media, or other advertising where only the telephone number appears and there is no business address.
• No license number on the vehicle, business card, or advertising.
• A large down payment is requested before work begins.
• You are asked to obtain the building permit.
• The individual or company provides only a “Local Business License” and not a contractor license. (A “Local Business License” is simply a license granting an individual the privilege of engaging in or managing a business, profession or occupation. It is not a contractor license.)
• A permit is obtained by someone other than the person or company contracting to do the work.
• You are informed by the individual or company that the job does not require a permit or inspections.
• You are offered a verbal contract only, the individual or company is not willing to put all terms in writing.
• The individual or company is only willing to work on weekends or after hours.
• You receive many requests for money (draws) during early phases of construction.
• You are asked to make checks payable in the individual’s name when it should be in a company name, or asked to make payment in cash, or to make a check payable to “cash.”
• The individual does not have proof of General Liability or Worker’s Compensation insurance.
Lee County Building Inspections
100 Orr Avenue
PO Box 362
Opelika, Alabama 36804
Phone: 334-737-7014 Fax: 334-745-9813
Did You Know
• That if you hire an unlicensed individual or company, you may have limited or no legal remedies if something goes wrong, even if you have a contract?
• That if you hire an unlicensed contractor who does not have Workers’ Compensation insurance, you may be financially responsible if any employees are injured while working on your premises?
• The hiring of an unlicensed individual could cause you to pay more for the job, than if you had hired a licensed contractor, especially if the work is done incorrectly or never finished. You may have to pay twice or more for the same job to be corrected or finished.
• If the unlicensed individual fails to pay his sub-contractors or suppliers, you may be required to pay them, even though you have already paid the “contractor”.
• That any construction or repair work in Lee County that cost more than $1,000 must be permitted and can only be performed by a licensed contractor if the amount exceeds $10,000. In addition, any work subcontracted out (plumbing, electrical, mechanical, etc.) must also be performed by licensed contractors. Never let an individual or company convince you to act as your own contractor and pay them to do the work.
• That as the property owner, you are ultimately responsible for making sure that the proper permits are obtained for the job.
• That you may be held liable for any damage to other property if the unlicensed individual has no insurance.
Just So You Will Know
There are three classifications for licensed home builders in Alabama: Unlimited, Limited, and Roofers. Any contract amount more than $10,000 requires a Home Builders License. If the project consists of work in more than one trade or involves the structural integrity of the building, an Unlimited Home Builders License is required. If the project does not involve more than one trade or any structural work, a Limited Home Builders License is required. If the project is a roofing job that costs more than $2,500, a Home Builders Roofing License is required. Please be sure to check that the individual has the correct license.
You Can Help By
• Obtaining a second quote for the work to be done. Require references and call to verify those references.
• Contacting the Lee County Building Inspections Department at 334-737-7014 to confirm that the contractor is licensed, to find out if a permit is required, or to answer any questions you may have.
• Contacting the Alabama Home Builders Licensure Board at 800-304-0853 if you are having problems with your contractor or need assistance.
Please Remember
We are here for you and we will do everything in our power to help you through these trying times.

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