By ELLY GRIMM
• Leader & Times
There have recently been complaints about being ripped off by unlicensed contractors in the City of Liberal.
The situation that’s been more common is people paying the contractors up front and the contractors then leaving with the money without having done the job.
“It’s always gone on, but it’s going on more now because economic times have gotten harder and people see a lower bid and want to go with it,” said Kory Krause, director of building services and code enforcement.”
Krause said right now, there are, unfortunately, no clues as to who the people are behind these recent complaints.
“It usually happens on weekends and evenings, and if we come across one, I’ve got a building inspector and three code enforcement officers who go around during the day, and they know what they’re looking for, and they know who all the licensed contractors are. If they do spot an unlicensed contractor, they can confront them,” he said.
By using an unlicensed contractor, Krause said, the work is often substandard and could ultimately lead to costly repairs and corrections that require the services of a properly licensed contractor.
He added that such unauthorized work leaves no guarantee as to whether the work was done correctly or whether it’s safe for residents.
“They could face equipment that’s not operating correctly, and also, we’re real concerned with life safety,” said Krause. “It also includes electrical work – if you use an unlicensed electrician then there’s the possibility of fire and just the safety of the family and all your possessions, and that’s why we, as inspectors, will go back and double check to make sure they do everything right. An unlicensed one won’t call us because they know they’ll get in trouble.”
Krause said there are ways for people to protect themselves against this happening to them, including calling the billing department at city hall, as they have a list of licensed contractors throughout the City of Liberal.
“They can ask the people if they’re licensed with the City of Liberal, and if they’re unsure, they can always call us, and we have a list of all the licensed contractors that are licensed through the city. We also have contractors from Dodge City and Garden City and Guymon (Okla.) that are also licensed through us, so if they have a question about the license, they can call the billing department at city hall,” he said.
For those who have been affected by this, Krause said it’s typically a civil matter between the two parties, and the alleged unlicensed contractor could face jail time if they’re caught and convicted.
“Besides them being fined and taking them to court, and if we catch them doing it, there is a fine and or some jail time and they have to go through the legal process,” said Krause.