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A look at unlicensed contractors sting

Posted at 12:21 PM, Feb 27, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-27 15:21:49-05
In this DIY age, you still need a professional for some home improvement projects. But hire the wrong contractor, and it could cost you. To help prevent that, the state is cracking down on unlicensed contractors.
Contact 13's cameras were there during the most recent undercover sting.
13 different contractors busted in a Henderson sting operation by the Nevada State Contractors Board.
Some of these guys are accused of contracting without a license. And some were found advertising without a license, on websites like Craigslist. Mark Hamilton was cited for both.
"We can do any type. We can do stone. We can do concrete," says Mark.
Our Contact 13 hidden cameras caught him bidding on a job, for a patio floor and fire pit.
"It's about $2,600," says Mark. "Just for the patio?" says a Contractors Board Investigator.
Nevada law requires contractors be licensed to perform any project costing $1,000 or more. That's including the price for materials and labor. Mark was cited and told if he meets certain requirements, he can ultimately take a test to earn his license. 
"We all got to get by somehow. This is how I get by. If it's wrong, I guess I either get better at it by taking the test, or look for a new career," says Mark.
Mike Baker was also cited for contracting and advertising without a license.
"I am planning on getting a license. I thought that if I stayed under $1,000 that I didn't have to have a license for anything," says Mike.
But Mike bid on a plumbing job. And contractors need a license for any plumbing, electrical, heating or air conditioning work. They also need a license for construction that requires a building permit. Remember, don't hire an unlicensed contractor just because they may be willing to work for less.
"You're not protected. The board does not have legal authority to come in... and order them to fix the problem," says Jennifer Lewis with the Contractors Board.
If something goes wrong, your only option is court. In all, Nevadans lost more than $8 million to unlicensed contractors last year. But with a licensed contractor, you may qualify to get money back through the Residential Recovery Fund.

If you are hiring someone, the contractors board says: "Never pay in cash."

The general rule is 10 percent up front, or no more than $1,000. And always get it in writing.

"Make sure that they're very specific and detailed, down to the type of color paint that you would like," says Jennifer.
Be sure to take every necessary precaution to protect yourself. There were more than 1,600 unlicensed and criminal complaints opened in Nevada last year. And most of those cases, were right here in Southern Nevada.