One of the most important things that a co-op or condo must take into consideration when hiring a contractor for a maintenance or construction project is whether the service providers the building are bringing in to do the work are properly licensed and insured. Contractors, subcontractors, and project managers have are not only entrusted to get their jobs done properly, but they have access to private property—so it only makes sense to check the workers’ paperwork with as much vigor as you check their references.
This sounds simple enough, but many times unlicensed contractors will submit bids that are far less than those of the licensed ones, and a board or building manager might think it’s okay to use these contractors because of the money they can save the building. But if they take a chance on these people and something bad happens, the owner of the building and the board itself could be held liable.
“It’s a big chance you are taking if you do that—it’s like a game of Russian roulette,” says Wayne Bellet of Bellet Construction Co. Ltd. in Manhattan, who has seen unlicensed contractors get projects because of the cheaper prices. “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.”
Required by Law
When it comes to New York City, the necessary licensing varies from trade to trade, and different trades require different licenses. The New York City Department of Buildings (DOB) has a Licensing Unit, which is responsible for issuing 18 different types of tradesperson’s licenses (see sidebar).
“After a candidate passes an examination and clears a background check, the licensing unit is notified that the individual is qualified for a license,” said Jennifer Givner, press secretary for the DOB. “The candidate may then apply for a license in person or by mail.”