We do it all the time, because we are too busy or just not ‘handy’ around the house. Most likely, he or she has been recommended by a friend or co-worker. They might even be a relative between jobs we want to help out. Their price seems right to build the deck, replace a hot water heater, add a window or door, change out the dining room chandelier, or whatever else it is we need to have done. If you’re like most of us who hire the occasional ‘handyman’, we never ask to see their license or insurance–but we should. The handyman definition has become so problematic to the consumer that the State of Alaska took action to protect the consumer.
As of January 1, 2015, a professional ‘General Contractor-Handyman’ license is required. If someone is doing business under this license, the aggregate total of the project must not exceed $10,000 and they must carry public liability and property damage insurance as required by AS 08.18.101. Any work that requires a specialty license such as structural, plumbing, heating, sheet metal, electrical, or has a value over $10,000 also requires a business license, liability insurance and a bond of $10,000. Any work that has an aggregate contract price of $10,000 or less, including all labor, materials and other items, when the work is not part of a larger or major operation or otherwise divided into contracts of less than $10,000, shall require a bond of $5,000. This is according to Sec. 08.18.071 of the statutes and regulations for construction contractors.
What can or can’t a handyman do? They can paint, dry wall, and lay flooring. They can adjust an interior door, install shelving in closets and do other work that doesn’t require a specialty license or interfere with the structural integrity of a dwelling. They can’t enlarge your backyard deck because that’s structural. They can’t move an electrical outlet because that does require a specialty license. Any remodeling that requires a ‘handyman’ to hire a subcontractor requires them to have a general contractor’s license.
How does a homeowner know who they are hiring? They should look up the person or entity in public records. Check to see if they have a criminal record in court view. Look for tax liens. Do they have a warranty program and is it in writing? Search the Recorder’s office. Have they ever put a lien on a property for non-payment by the homeowner? Remember, there are always two sides to every complaint. Has the handyman paid state unemployment or worker’s compensation? Do they have employees that they are paying off the books? Have they ever pulled a permit in the MOA? The handyman should never ask you to pull a permit which is required for any work done on a dwelling over $10,000. One licensed and bonded builder with a residential endorsement suggested not hiring someone who doesn’t have a land line and a physical address. A truck and a cell phone is not necessarily an indication of stability.
With Alaska’s aging housing stock, who does maintenance and repairs on houses is going to become a more and important issue. A licensed, bonded and insured contractor with a written warranty program is the best protection against fraud and poor workmanship. The State of Alaska regulations are there to protect the consumer and it is their responsibility to ask the right questions.