Rising concerns over unlicensed contractor scams in Eastern Oregon

By on Thursday, May 16th, 2024 in More Top Stories Northeastern Oregon News

BAKER CITY – The Construction Contractors Board (CCB) of Oregon is intensifying efforts to combat unlicensed contractor scams in Eastern Oregon, especially as home remodeling and repair season kicks into gear. 

Dawn Kitzmiller, Building Official at the Baker City Building Department, warns of a rise in “wanna-be” contractors operating without proper permits or licenses, posing risks to consumers and property values

“It really is an issue in Baker County and eastern Oregon. Consumers really should be more cautious because it matters,” said Kitzmiller.  “I understand that everyone has a fundamental right to do work to support themselves and their families.  But if, by law, you are supposed to be licensed, bonded, and insured, then you should be.”

In response to escalating concerns, the CCB says it has ramped up its enforcement measures, deploying Field Investigators to conduct unannounced inspections at construction sites across the region. 

“The reason for laws, believe it or not, is to protect the occupants of structures, and to protect the value of the property,” said Kitzmille.  “Along those lines, lack of a proper contractor, or permits and inspections can affect the value of the property to lenders.”

Kitzmiller also cautions against hiring unlicensed contractors due to potential risks such as lack of insurance, bond coverage, and workers’ compensation. Despite initial cost savings, hiring unlicensed contractors can lead to failed projects and financial losses for homeowners.

“Even if you are ordering a ready-built structure, for example, the company must have a CCB license to assemble it on-site, and it also usually must be permitted/inspected,” said Kitzmiller.  “This is also an area that is often abused in our community, and they are illegally installed/dropped on properties.  Ready-built carports, sheds, barns, etc., must be installed by a licensed contractor.”

Dangers of working with unlicensed contractors include:

  • No ability to look up license history. CCB’s online license search feature allows consumers to look up any license and see its history, including disciplinary history, previous suspensions, complaints and more. This helps consumers to make informed decisions when hiring a contractor. No such look up exists for unlicensed contractors.
  • No access to mediation. CCB offers mediation services to consumers in dispute with their licensed contractor. CCB mediations help keep these disputes out of court. Consumers in dispute with unlicensed contractors do not have this option, and while some do choose to go to court, others simply walk away. Many hire licensed contractors to fix the problem.
  • No insurance, bond, or workers comp policy. Licensed contractors are required to have insurance and a bond in place to protect consumers. Businesses with employees are required to have workers comp. Most often, unlicensed contractors do not have this kind of protection and thus put consumers who hire them at risk.

Residents are urged to exercise caution by checking contractor licenses online and reporting suspicious activities promptly to the CCB or your local building department.

Kitzmiller says that using unlicensed contractors can not only hurt your property and finances, but also the community as a whole. 

“We all can agree that “farmers” are the salt of the earth.  No question, they are very, very important.  I would also like to throw out that “contractors” are also salt of the earth. They truly make the economy work for any community,” Kitzmiller said. “Imagine a community with no contractors.  It would become a ghost town in very short order. I am a BIG FAN of our licensed contractors, and I hope our community will embrace the legal ones and refuse to use the others.  Support the folks who do the job right.”