Experts: Unlicensed contractors are a risk to your wallet — and workers' safety

MANOA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Amid Hawaii's construction boom, some homeowners are turning to unlicensed contractors to tackle projects.

And that poses a host of problems, not least of which surround safety.

Evan Fujimoto, president of Graham Builders and the Building Industry Association-Hawaii, said licensed contractors must follow a host of safety regulations. Contractors that are operating illegally often don't follow those same rules and that "is going to put their workers at risk."

Plus, Fujimoto warns, if an unlicensed worker gets injured on a property, the homeowner could be liable.

"They put themselves in a lot of legal jeopardy and take a lot of risks that they should not have to," he said.

Compared to the shoddy work done by some alleged scammers, Fujimoto showed Hawaii News Now what a properly-managed construction site looks like at a future two-story home in Manoa and other sites with safety rails and scaffolding.

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He said homeowners should avoid signing poorly-written agreements and ask their contractor about bonding.

"A bond essentially protects the homeowner that all the monies paid to the contractor are in fact paid to the subcontractor or workers that are performing the work," said Fujimoto.

Meanwhile, homeowners say that because of the hot construction market, it can be difficult finding a reputable, licensed contractor.

"A couple of times, we had people that were really recommended and the pricing was just completely unrealistic so I just ended up doing did the work myself," said homeowner Curtis Tiritas.

"They are booked solid. Six months maybe more. I had to wait for my favorite tile and stone guy almost a year," said homeowner Clifford Mirikitani.

Hawaii has a handyman law, which allows homeowners to hire an unlicensed contractor if the job is less than $1,000.

Experts say you can check with the Building Industry Association and General Contractors Association for licensed contractors.

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