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Tips to Homeowners

October 13, 1985|ARMAND L. FONTAINE | Fontaine is president of the Western Regional Master Builders Assn. He will answer questions concerning home improvements. Phone 213/653-4084, or write him at 6404 Wilshire Blvd.,Suite 850, Los Angeles 90048

Question: In recent columns you have talked about how to deal with home improvement contractors. Do the same rules apply to swimming pool contractors?

Answer: You should be even more careful in dealing with swimming pool contractors.

While the payment schedule as outlined by state law is slightly different, I would like to point out that in 1980 there were 4,800 licensed swimming pool contractors in the state. In 1985, there are slightly less than 800 licensed swimming pool contractors.

One of the major reasons for this decline is that the license bond for home improvement contractors is double that of all other contractors at $10,000. While this is not a performance bond, it is a very expensive bond costing about $500 to $600 a year. This has resulted in many swimming pool contractors giving up their licenses.

Many persons who built swimming pools in conjunction with their existing contractor license have given up their licenses also. Many of these people are still working in the underground economy as unlicensed contractors.

In doing business with an unlicensed contractor, the total liability for all problems is that of the homeowner. While it is illegal to operate as a contractor without a license, some of these people will get around the law by operating on a so-called wage basis whereby the homeowner becomes the employer.

In such circumstances, not only are the liabilities for supplies and employees greatly increased, but also the liabilities in regard to insurance, such as workers' compensation and liability coverage.

My advice is to check out the credentials of any swimming pool contractor. Carefully inspect previous jobs done by this contractor to make sure you have an established mechanic working for you.

The bonding statistics show at the present time that the highest rate of claims of all categories of construction exists in the swimming pool area. This is probably caused by the fact that there is indeed a larger bond required of them. However, it is my feeling that the reason there is indeed a larger bond required of them. However, it is my feeling that the reason there is a larger bond is because there is a necessity for more consumer protection. There are more dissatisfied individual in this one are of construction than in most other areas.

While there is much solid consumer legislation in California to protect homeowners, the bottom line is always: "Let the buyer beware." One should exercise due caution when one is thinking of investing large sumes of money in probably the biggest investment that the average person has--his home.

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