Jesse Jones

Are those ‘pros’ from home improvement sites actually vetted?

KENT, Wash. — Brian Leavitt is a real estate agent who used the huge home services company Angi to find a registered contractor. But he never got one.

“When they’re hiring these people that aren’t even licensed, bonded, insured,” says Brian, “who are you letting into your home?”

Angi is a merger between HomeAdvisor and Angie’s List. The company promises that “top-rated pros” will do the work on your project.

The Project

Brian needed contractors to paint walls and perform floor work for a client’s home. But that job was botched.

“The walls had to be sanded and retextured. And I don’t know how you goof up a paint job that bad. I think you know a little kid could do better,” says Brian.

And the workers never fixed the flooring. So, Brian spent $1,200 for the job and $2,000 more to make it right.

Brian checked to see if the person Angi hired was a registered contractor. And since he paid Angi for the project, he wanted to know if it, too, was registered.

“And so I go online after the fact to verify and they’re not licensed. And their subcontractors are not licensed,” says Brian.

Is Angi a contractor?

“We did not find them to be registered,” says Jesse Jameson, a Construction Compliance Specialist with Washington Labor and Industries.

That’s right. According to Jameson, the business which prides itself on “vetting pros” is in violation of state law itself.

“When they collect the money and send a contractor, that is the reason they need to be registered as a general contractor,” says Jameson.

Jameson says, since Brian paid Angi to do the job, he couldn’t go after the painter’s bond (a type of insurance the state requires contractors to have) even if they had one. He’d have to file against Angi’s bond. But remember, they’re not registered.

“Consumers don’t have a contract with the person that comes to do the painting work. So they cannot, they do not have access to a bond,” says Jameson.

In a statement regarding the Leavitt case, an Angi spokesperson says:

“While we don’t believe for projects like these that we need to be registered as a contractor, we are actively working towards attaining the contractor license registration in the state of Washington.”

It appears Angi didn’t work fast enough. On January 26 Washington Labor and Industries sent a notice of infraction to the company for unregistered contracting.

Registration provides consumer protection

Let’s make sure this is right. Nobody in Mr. Leavitt’s case is registered? Neither Angi or the person or persons who did the work? According to L&I’s Jameson, that’s correct.

Labor and Industries also faced another web giant running a similar platform: Amazon.

“We had similar discussions and Amazon registered as a general contractor,” says Jameson.

In response to the infraction an Angi spokesperson says:

“Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We have not yet received this citation from the state but take the matter very seriously. We do not think we have violated any state regulations and will proactively work with the state to resolve. "

This is important because registered contractors provide some cover – through bond and insurance - for consumers.

“They will have a workers comp account with labor and industries to protect the workers in case they are injured on your property,” says Jameson.

Angi does has something that’s called a “Happiness Guarantee.” It covers up to $50,000 in damages in some cases. And it covered the charges in Brian’s case.

Trust - but verify

Bottom line, go to ProtectMyHome.Net. It’s Labor and Industry’s site where you can verify a contractor’s registration, be it a billion-dollar business or a laborer on Craigslist.

“I would not allow an unregistered contractor to perform work on my home,” says Jameson. “Period.”

According to Labor and Industries, Angi has 30 days to respond to the infraction. We’ll keep you updated.

As for whether Angi really does check contractor registrations - the answer is confusing.

We’ve gone through their terms over and over. In some cases, it appears they do check. In some cases, it appears they don’t. They say they will go back and check if there’s a problem.

So the bottom line is this: you need to check for yourself. Because when it’s your cash and your home, the buck really does stop with you.

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