Agent

Home improvement a hazard with unlicensed contractors

Injuries, mechanics' liens not worth the cost savings

Not long ago we answered a question from a reader who wants a new hardwood floor in her living room. Because cost was her main concern, we suggested that she consider nailing down the floor herself, but hire a professional to do the sanding and finishing. To further reduce costs, we suggested that she might avoid the middleman and hire the finisher herself without involving a flooring contractor. We cautioned her to do her homework before hiring anyone and recommended against hiring an unlicensed worker unless she knew him and his work. John Motroni, a consumer affairs producer at ABC television in San Francisco, took us to task for this advice, focusing on our remark about unlicensed workers. He wrote, "I'm sure you know that it's illegal for an unlicensed contractor to bid more than $500 on a job in California. I've looked at the law and I don't see the exception 'unless you know them personally and trust them implicitly.' "Unless you can get oak floors installed for less tha...