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Oregonian Editorial- Contractor License Needs Teeth
Thursday, 08 December 2005
Contractors board needs some teeth
It's too easy to get a contracting license in Oregon, and the industry-dominated regulatory system is too lax - 
Getting a barber's license requires 1,100 hours of training; getting a contractor's license requires only 16 hours of classes, followed by a test. And that's just the least of Oregon's problem with its alarmingly lax system of qualifying and policing its building contractors. In a front-page report Sunday, Jeff Manning of The Oregonian described how the industry-dominated Oregon Construction Contractors Board oversees a regulatory operation in which: Contractors skate by without paying millions of dollars in board-ordered damages to aggrieved homeowners.
The Oregonian
Contractors board needs some teeth
It's too easy to get a contracting license in Oregon, and the industry-dominated regulatory system is too lax
Tuesday, December 06, 2005

I n Oregon, it's far easier to get a license to build homes than to cut hair.

Getting a barber's license requires 1,100 hours of training; getting a contractor's license requires only 16 hours of classes, followed by a test.

And that's just the least of Oregon's problem with its alarmingly lax system of qualifying and policing its building contractors. In a front-page report Sunday, Jeff Manning of The Oregonian described how the industry-dominated Oregon Construction Contractors Board oversees a regulatory operation in which:

Contractors skate by without paying millions of dollars in board-ordered damages to aggrieved homeowners.

Consumers using the board's Web site get incomplete, often deceptive information about contractors' past performance.

Troubled contractors can elude board sanction.

Weak licensing and bonding standards lag behind those of other states.

Manning's disturbing story was a follow-up on last June's two-part series in which he reported how contractors were seeking protection from a rash of consumer lawsuits. They sprang from expensive construction defects resulting from new building methods, trouble-prone materials and slipshod work.

As a result of that series, the Oregon Legislature created a task force to answer questions and recommend reforms. Its central chore, in our view, is finding out whether the state's regulatory system is adequately performing its mission of qualifying and policing contractors and settling customer disputes.

Manning's Sunday report strongly indicates that the system is not the effective watchdog it was meant to be. How can builders argue otherwise? Repeatedly, records show, the board has allowed troubled contractors to remain in business. At the same time, contractors have avoided paying more than half of the $55 million in penalties levied by the agency during the past 10 years.

In fairness, we'll acknowledge that the contractors board has just 62 employees to oversee 45,000 contractors. Those are thin resources for such a huge responsibility.

But insufficiently aggressive enforcement isn't the only problem. State laws are too weak. When a contractor can build a half- million-dollar Oregon home with a mere $15,000 bond, the consumer is at enormous risk, as Manning's piece pointed out.

Then there's the matter of the 16 hours of required schooling. It's just too easy to get a contractor's license in Oregon.

Will the Legislature's nine-member task force find solutions to these problems? Maybe, but don't bet the farm. The panel is overwhelmingly dominated by building contractors. Its sole public member is a Portland lawyer who frequently represents contractors. It's not unreasonable to wonder whether this group will come up with proposals to the 2007 Legislature that would put some real teeth in Oregon's oversight of construction contractors.

If it doesn't, lawmakers will have to do the job themselves. Which might have been the right idea in the first place.
http://www.oregonlive.com/editorials/oregonian/index.ssf?/base/editorial/1133832312212090.xml&coll=7

 
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