National Guidelines and Testing in the Home Improvement Industry
Washington must take the lead and create legislation to force states to improve regulation of the home improvement industry. Washington has so far left regulation of the home improvements industry to state regulators. This has led to many states falling short.
Some states do not even have contractor licensing for home improvements. The license requirements for some states that have licensing do not require that an applicant prove their ability to do any type home improvement work. It’s like saying I will grant you a license for cutting hair, but you don’t have to show that you can do it. Then, why would states want to issue licenses if they don’t have to show competence? Revenue? Oder could they be requesting more consumer complaints from Consumer Affairs and BBB? Unfortunately, homeowners end up paying the price for poor workmanship and a series of other problems with their home improvements.
Let’s be real, the home renovation industry is not attracting the most trustworthy, honest, or competent people. You may be lured by the opportunity to make a quick buck, and to have your home improved in no time. When I worked as a contractor, I had many different job positions. The majority of people I interviewed, and eventually hired, had the same problems as their previous employers. These issues included substance abuse issues as well as honesty and reliability issues. It was not clear that the labor pool had an excessive amount of talent or employmentability.
It was always interesting to me to read article after article about the severe shortage of manpower in the home improvement sector. Each article’s bottom line would always read, “If possible, find someone honest, reliable, competent to work for your company .” Keep the person you love happy. You’ll never know when they will find someone else to replace them. This was a constant, stressful problem for owners. It was almost scary to try to increase production, because you knew you would have the task of finding someone to do the extra work. Finding employees was always an adventure. It was something I did not look forward to.
In the home improvement business, the shortage of workers has been the main problem for at least the last 10-15 years. To address this problem, many contractors have started to train and hire minorities.
You can ask your state authorities to tell you what they are doing to improve regulation and screening in the home improvements industry. I have heard this for thirty years. My county, Suffolk County in New York, still doesn’t require me to show that I have any home improvement skills to get a license. Although the fees have increased, the requirements for home improvement licenses have remained relatively unchanged. We are one of most taxed areas in the country. Therefore, I don’t believe there is enough money to implement better policing in the home improvement sector.
The National Association of The Remodeling Industry is the only national organization that certifies home-improvement contractors. You can obtain a variety of certifications from them. The applicant must demonstrate a range of knowledge in order to be eligible for these certifications. This includes knowledge about project management and business practices. NARI’s primary certification is called Certified Remodeler (CR). This certification requires applicants to create a matrix, or resume, of their experiences and knowledge. Additionally, they must score well on an 8-hour exam. Only 1000 CRs are available out of the hundreds and thousands of home inspectors in this country. This certification was earned in 1994 by me and it is still my proud possession today. This certification was not an easy process. It took a lot of time and effort. But it was definitely worth it. The best thing about this certification is the fact that it must be renewed every year by continuing to participate and learn in the home improvement industry.
Washington should have required a nationwide screening to ensure that everyone who is interested in home improvement can “pass” to be granted a license. This license could be used all over the country. A screening process similar to NARI’s certifications could be used. The screening could be as easy as a simple test with multiple choices questions. You could score the test machine-scored.
A sub-license for home improvement licensing is a good idea. You would get a license only for bathroom home improvement if you were a contractor. This would clarify the tasks licensees are permitted to perform, and prevent licensees from granting one license that may give the false impression that they can complete any type of project.
Washington should be involved because the American people don’t have time to wait for every state to come up with a solution.
But, Washington could mandate a national screening system and testing. You would still need to screen the people who work in your home. (If they were not licensed or screened) The screening would ensure that these people are employees of the person who screened them. The homeowner is then back to square 1 with not knowing who the qualified people are working on their house. It is unlikely, as the person who was screened and granted the license would wish to keep it. It is in everyone’s best interest to complete the project correctly. Problems can arise when contractors take on too many projects and try to do it all by hiring inexperienced or unqualified people. His or her business can sometimes spiral out of control due to the temptation to complete more work and make more money. This leads to poor quality work and delays in project completion. The employees of licensed and screened contractors should be “qualified” to a level comparable with NARI’s lead carpenter certification.
These urgently needed changes will be made soon. Since Washington is not the only one who can make these necessary changes, I would not betray Washington. Also, I doubt your state and local governments will drastically improve regulations governing home improvements.
What should a homeowner do in order to protect their home? To protect your home from poor decisions and situations, you need to have the right knowledge and tools.
The Home Improvement Success Club of AmericaTM can provide all the information and “tools” that you need without having to spend hours researching and trying out different options. You can ask questions in a variety of forums such as the chat room, message boards, phone consultations, and project estimate-contract assessments. The Home Improvement Success System (a step-by step home improvement guide) is also included in the club membership. The system can be used for any type of project. You can also get a 30-day guarantee of your satisfaction if you are not satisfied with your club membership.