Fairhope warns about unlicensed builders


FAIRHOPE – The Fairhope Building Department is finding an increasing number of unlicensed contractors working in the area and cautions residents about hiring companies to work on their property.

The department is currently working with the Alabama Homebuilders Licensure Board on three separate investigations involving unlicensed contractors who have accepted money and not completed the work, have not paid subcontractors resulting in liens being filed against the homeowner or have performed substandard work that does not meet the city’s requirements or acceptable contraction practices.

These types of instances become more frequent anytime an area starts seeing increased construction activity and contractors start coming into an area. Just because a contractor is not local does not mean they will not perform good work, and contractors who are reputable and conscientious are always welcome regardless of where they are from.

The primary benefits of obtaining building permits are establishing a legal record of a project, verifying that contractors have the proper licenses for the work they are performing, and provide inspections of the work to verify it meets the codes and ordinances of the city, according to a Fairhope city statement.

The Building Department fields call every day from real estate agents, homeowners and insurance companies requesting copies of permit records to verify work on a property was properly permitting and inspected. Too often the project in question was not permitted and no inspections were performed, and in numerous cases it has cost someone the ability to either sell or obtain reasonable insurance for their home.

Property owners can do several things to help protect themselves if they are planning on home improvement project or building a new home:

• Require written contracts with set costs for the work and verify they have proper insurance; if they do not any worker hurt at your home during the project can file a claim against the homeowners.

• Have the contractor obtain all permits and ask to see copies. While not always the case, often unlicensed or improperly licensed contractors will have homeowners obtain permits for the project. If this is the case, investigate further to find out if there is any specific reason a contractor is unwilling or reluctant to obtain a permit in person. The Departments position is that if you are paying a contractor to perform work they should obtain all permits for the project;

• Look for the permit card that will be issued by the city (orange if a small project or renovation/addition);

• Roofing projects are a specific concern and the most common issue that comes up. By State law, any residential roofer is required to have an Alabama Homebuilders Licensure Board Roofers license.

A good resource for information is the Baldwin County Home Builders Association. Just because a builder may not be a member of the HBA does not mean they do not perform good work, but the HBA has a listing of member contractors that perform every discipline of work and can point you in a good direction. In addition, property owners are asked to contact the Building Department at (251) 990-0153 or at buildingpermits@fairhopeal.gov with any questions. Owners can also visit the department website at https://www.fairhopeal.gov/departments/building for additional information.