Before hiring a contractor in Cleveland, make sure they are registered to work in the city.
Tome Moran, an Angie's List member from Cleveland's West Park neighborhood, browsed a home remodeling show in early 2008 and signed up for a free estimate from a company called 1 Day Bath. Erring on the side of caution, Moran checked with the city's Department of Building & Housing to determine whether the company was registered to work in Cleveland — a requirement for all contractors.
It wasn't, he says, meaning that the city couldn't corroborate that the contractor carried insurance, bonding or a state license for plumbing. Attempts by Angie's List Magazine to contact 1 Day Bath were unsuccessful.
The nonregistration was a deal-breaker for Moran, who demands the safeguards that come with contractor registration. "I always check," Moran says. "If Jesus himself came down and said, 'I could do carpentry work for you,' I would ask, 'Are you registered and bonded?'"
The state of Ohio licenses contractors in electrical, plumbing, HVAC, refrigeration and hydronics (heating and cooling systems that use water as the transfer medium), and requires that those contractors hold liability insurance and pass an exam. The state licenses are mandatory for commercial work, but many Ohio communities also demand that contractors in those trades hold the state license before they can register locally for residential work.
In Northeast Ohio, contractors often must register in each community before they can pull permits to perform residential work. The requirements can vary, but contractors typically must produce proof of liability insurance and a separate bond. In Cleveland, contractors must submit a $25,000 compliance bond, which means they agree to comply with city codes.
Pat DiMarco, assistant administrator for Building & Housing, takes calls from the public about city contractor requirements and can confirm whether a company is registered in Cleveland. He can be reached at 216-664-2884.
"It protects the consumer," says Pat DiMarco, assistant administrator for Building & Housing. "If there's any substandard work, we can use the bond to go after the contractor." In 2008 and so far in 2009, Cleveland has secured $158,156 for consumers on 21 claims against contractors' bonds, DiMarco says.
When Julie Elshaw and her husband, Derek, hired Cedar Falls Brick & Stone for a major patio project in 2008, the Eastlake couple believed representative Chris O'Kelley when he said the firm was registered locally, according to Julie. They later learned his claim was false after checking with the city, she says.
Contacted by Angie's List Magazine, O'Kelley acknowledges the firm isn't registered. However, he says he doesn't recall making that claim, and he wasn't even aware of the requirement until trying unsuccessfully to secure a permit. "We did nothing wrong," he says.
The Elshaws recovered the $3,000 deposit they paid Cedar Falls, joined Angie's List and hired T J Farinacci Landscaping, a two-time Super Service Award winner, to do the patio project. The company is bonded, insured and registered to work in Eastlake. "We don't look at any contractors without checking Angie's List," Julie says. "And we definitely check with the city."
You can check the licensing status of Cleveland-area companies online or by phone. Log in to angi.com for more details.