Our friends over at www.thecontractorsside.com are doing their best to repair the reputation of contractors nationwide. They have started a grass roots campaign to force an LA Times writer to publish a pro-contractor type article. They are making gain with him but could use your help. Please read the following letter to the editor and then email your feelings to Mr. Lopez.
Here is the original correspondence from Heather Aitken:
Please email the following letter to the editor to the Los Angeles Times (email@example.com) and then send it on to ten other contractors and so on, so we can let the press know how honest contractors feel.
Here is Lee Dodson’s letter to the editor:
Dear Mr. Lopez,
I read with interest your story on unlicensed contractors being busted.
This is of interest to legitimate contractors everywhere, however, I do not see and have not seen one article anywhere, in any publication, that gives favorable mention to the contractors who slug it out every day in a tough business.
Contractors already know that unlicensed contractors hurt the business, but reports of this nature tend to tar all contractors with the same broad brush. In this state, contractors operate under the most stringent rules in the country,
Contractors must not only be licensed, they must carry a bond, must carry workers’ compensation insurance or self insure, and are required to go to mandatory arbitration without recourse to appeal in the case of dispute.
Add to these facts that the codes and regulations, price increase in permits, and heavy zoning restrictions, and the cost to the contractor has skyrocketed in the past few years.
The customer does not know the intricacies of the business of contracting, nor does the customer care. He looks at price, and there is where the cheap guys see an opening, i.e. unlicensed contractors.
The licensing process (testing, evaluating, authorizing) is fairly good, but the process needs streamlining. It can take months to move forward. But after the licensing process is successfully completed, the licensing entity becomes the adversary of the contractor, rather than becoming the ally. The Board becomes solely an advocate for the consumer, leaving little doubt that the contractor bears burden of proof of innocence.
Accusations of malfeasance against the contractor weights in favor of the contractee, and the contractor bears the total burden of expense while the other party simply shows up, the State on his side.
The bonding companies, knowing they own the contractors’ business, can charge maximum fees for a “required product,’ and they do. In my investigations into bonding companies, I have found not one contractor who has received the advertised “preferred rate” for bonds. Bonding companies do an absolutely perfect “bait and switch” maneuver that nearly always results in doubling the original cost of bond.
Workers’ Compensation packages soar in expense as another “required cost of business.” Due to the overwhelming number of fraudulent claims, the snail-like pace of adjudication and settlement, the ineptitude of investigators, the onerous medical proving up, the system is burdened at more than quadruple its capacity, thereby increasing costs to the insured which, in turn, is passed on as increased cost to the end user.
Add to these facts the unending number of stories of “bad contractors” who rip off the clientele, and any story, repeat any story, dealing with the construction trades rises to a tacit indictment of all contractors, unlicensed or duly licensed.
One might ask if the licensed contractor has any recourse but to report unlicensed contractors, and the answer is no. Most contractors are loath to become involved with any authorities over any but the most egregious of violations because it does not serve their interests and because most contractors want to stay off officials’ radar. Anonymity is the best protection.
One might further ask if anything has been done to help small contractors. Again, the answer is no. Legislatures and government bodies have done absolutely nothing, passed no laws, written
no new regulations to help those whom “if you drove on it, if you work in it, or if you live in it, a contractor built it.”
Courts have been no better. In Southern California, according to the L.A. Times, seventy-five per cent of all civil actions involve construction related cases. My research indicates that the contractor may as well stay on his or her current job to make the money he or she will need to pay off the judgment because, from Small Claims to Superior Courts, eighty-five per cent of the time the ruling is for the client.
This anti-contractor attitude has evolved from a belief that contractors make a killing on every last project. The reality is that most small contractors work to a less than twenty percent markup that is rarely achievable. Most small contractors do well to reach a ten per cent profitability, if that.
Across the nation, the situation is remarkably the same. Since I launched my website:
http://thecontractorsside.com, I have heard from thousands of contractors the same series of complaints about identical issues, but the one foremost complaint is the use of official bodies and rules to either reduce payment, or to not pay at all.
Why is this complaint so common? The easy answer is that there are a lot of cheaters out there, but it could well be that cheating has become institutionalized as a product of unbalanced regulation on a business which may be the only business in our country that remains unable to be outsourced.
I heard recently from a contractor who boasted he had never been stiffed on a payment in
his twenty-five years of plying his trade. I thanked him for his call and asked if he might
have any advice to contractors who had not been as lucky. He rattled off a few well-known
practices and said if a contractor followed the rules, he would be paid. I thanked the man
and sat down to write my constituents his wisdom.
Yesterday, the same contractor called with the news that while he had played by the rules, done his due diligence, he had just yesterday been stiffed for $8000.00. He was still stunned by the event. Needless to say, he registered on the website ten minutes later.
What can be done to improve the lot of the small business contractor who has next to no power with officialdom or media?
Because the small contractors have no true advocacy aside from small publications and loosely organized trade associations, they have limited access to redress, and few speak on their behalf.
Their sole recourse is to become educated as to their market, and that means sharing information. There are business seminars and coaching institutions which can help in the “business” of the business, but these entities focus on individual practice rather than a group effort towards commercial overview. Again, the contractor is isolated, insulated from information essential to the conduct of informed practice, i.e. good customer, iffy customer, bad customer up to and including suppliers, officials, banking institutions, architects, and engineers.
No one shows any intention of taking the contractors’ side, therefore, the contractor must take his or her own side in the work of improving the business, and this means in the area of policing not only unlicensed contractors, but also in the area of policing every area of
contractor-societal interconnect, including self- and client-education.
If contractors initiate the improvements, the effect can be far-reaching and effective, but they must take action to preserve the small business venue.
If the small contractor opts out, the results for the economy can be disastrous. Prices for construction will soar when the only bidders are large companies who perforce control the market.
It is said that this country runs on small business. It employs more people than major corporations, provides more peripheral and entry level jobs, is more responsive to market pressures, is more highly creative is problem solution, and is truly the backbone of the nation.
The contracting business needs some good news and good press.
http://thecontractorsside.com is the only resource for this kind of information and the only established advocate for the contractor. If you want to know what’s happening in the construction business where it really matters and where to take action, this is the place.
I am cc’ing this message to my constituents so they can sign onto it in agreement and
send it to you so the thousands of diligent, honest contractors can finally get some credit
where it is due.
Lee w. Dodson