Licensed contractors around the state are concerned that work continues to be done by unlicensed builders with little to nothing that is being done about it.
Since 2008, the state of Georgia has required contractors performing residential or general contracting work to have a professional license issued by the Secretary of State's office.
Local builder and developer Keely Fennell, a member of the State Residential and General Contractor Licensing Board, is frustrated by the board's inability to enforce the new regulations.
"We have not been given the tools or the means by which to do that," Fennell said. "It really isn't possible to know how much work is being done by unlicensed individuals, but I'm sure there is a good bit. What I really want consumers to understand is that on the whole, licensed contractors are knowledgeable people that care about their career and want to do the right thing. They are also held to a higher standard, because they have to have insurance to obtain a license."
The law allows for individuals to serve as their own general contractor and to pull building permits for construction on their property.
"That is where we see a lot of abuse," said Jamey Cartee, the owner of St. Andrews Builders in Statesboro. "People decide they want to do it themselves, and then ultimately don't really understand what needs to be done. So, they contract with an unlicensed individual to oversee the job. If someone is injured on the job site, or something goes wrong with construction, they have very little recourse. An injured person not covered by worker's compensation is most likely going to file against the homeowner's insurance."
Randy Newman serves as zoning administrator for Bulloch County. His office also issues building permits for the county.
"I'll give you an example of a recent problem that came to our attention," he said. "One of our residents hired an unlicensed builder to come build a shed on his property, and the resident had pulled the building permit. Well, the builder built the shed in one day and was paid by the resident. When we went out there to inspect it, everything had been covered by walls or siding, and he couldn't get the guy to come back. Some of that is going to have to be removed so we can look underneath at the construction, and what has been installed."
Newman agrees that it is prudent to hire a licensed contractor.
"A licensed contractor knows the rules and regulations," he said. "It is so much more difficult when someone who is inexperienced is their own contractor. It really, really is."
Cartee said there are a number of things that consumers can do to protect themselves.
"You can ask to see their contractor's license and insurance certificate," he said. "You can do a credit check to see if they are paying their bills from their suppliers. And always ask for references."
Local insurance agency owner John Lee said homeowners need to be aware of the potential liability when hiring someone to do improvements on their property.
"From a liability perspective, when someone is doing work on your property that is not insured, then the property owner could be held liable for any injuries or property damage that is done," he said. "Hiring a licensed and insured contractor relieves property owners of most of the liability."