National Guidelines and Testing in the Home Improvement Industry
Washington needs to take the initiative and pass legislation that will require states to regulate the home-improvement industry. Washington has been allowing the regulation of the home-improvement industry to be left up to the state regulators. Many states have failed to do so for various reasons.
Some states still do not have contractor licensing for home improvement. Some states do not require that applicants demonstrate their ability to perform any type of home improvements. This is similar to saying that I will give you a license to trim hair, but you don’t need to prove your ability to do so. Why do states issue licenses when there is no requirement to prove competence? Revenue? Could it be that they have more consumer complaints to deal with for Consumer Affairs or BBB? This problem has unfortunate consequences: homeowners end up paying for poor workmanship and other home improvement issues.
Let’s face it, the home-improvement industry doesn’t seem to attract the most trustworthy, honest, and competent people. Many people are attracted to the home improvement industry by the promise of quick money and the ease of being “qualified” to do it. As a contractor, I had to hire people for various positions. Many of the people I interviewed and hired seemed to have had similar problems with their past employers. These issues included substance abuse, honesty, and reliability problems. There was never an oversupply of talent or employability in the labor pool.
Every article I read dealt with the large manpower gap in the home-improvement industry. Every article had the bottom line: “If you can find a trustworthy, reliable, and competent person to work with you, do everything you can Keep that person happy. You never know when you might be able to find someone who will take their place. It was very stressful to manage as an owner. Because you knew that you would need to find additional workers, you were afraid to increase project production. Finding employees was an adventure I loved, and one that I didn’t look forward to.
The lack of skilled labor has been the biggest problem in the home-improvement industry for the past 10-15 years. This is why many contractors train and hire minorities to solve the problem.
Talk to your state officials about how regulations and screening are being improved in the home-improvement industry. They will likely tell you that something is in the works, or there is not enough money to test. This is something I’ve heard for over 30 years. To obtain a home-improvement license in Suffolk County, New York, the county where I live (Suffolk County) there is no requirement to demonstrate home improvement ability. While the fee has increased in recent years, the requirements have remained the same. We are one the most taxed counties in the nation, so it is hard to believe that there is not enough money to improve the policing and screening processes in the home-improvement industry.
The only national organization offering certification for home-improvement professionals is The National Association of The Remodeling Industry (NARI). There are many certifications you can get. These certifications require applicants to have a wide range of knowledge. They can be certified in everything from project knowledge to good business practices. The main certification of NARI is the Certified Remodeler (CR) designation. The applicant must prepare a detailed matrix (or resume) of their knowledge and experience. They also need to score a certain amount on an eight-hour exam. Out of the many thousands of home-improvement contractors in this country, there are only about 1000 CR’s. This certification was awarded to me in 1994, and I still proudly own it today. Although it is time-consuming and takes a lot of effort to obtain this certification, it was worth it. This certification must be renewed each year by showing continued involvement in the home-improvement industry.
Washington could have mandated a screening system that ensures all home-improvement enthusiasts can “pass” the test to get a license. This license could be used across the country. You could use a screening procedure that is similar to what NARI uses for certifications. A comprehensive test could be used to screen applicants. Machine scoring could be possible for this test.
My ideal licensing situation would be to break down home improvement licensing into separate licenses. If you were a bathroom contractor, you would only need a license to do bathroom home improvements. This would allow licensees to be more specific about what they are allowed to do and not give the wrong impression that licensees can do all types of projects.
Washington must get involved in this problem because the American public is too busy to wait for each state to find a solution.
If Washington did decide to mandate national screening and testing, you would still need to deal with screening the people who come to work at your house. If they weren’t licensed and screened, these people would be considered employees. Do they know the qualifications of those working on the house? Or is the homeowner back at square one? Because the person who passed the screening and got the license would like to keep it, I think so. It is in the best interests of the licensed person to ensure that the project is completed correctly. Contractors who take on too much work or hire inexperienced, unqualified workers can create problems. Sometimes, the lure of more work and more money can lead to a contractor’s business becoming “out of control”. This can lead to problems with quality and the completion of projects. Employers of licensed and screened contractors must be “qualified” at a level comparable to NARI’s lead Carpenter certification.
Are these urgently needed changes possible? To be truthful, I wouldn’t wait for Washington to make these changes. I also don’t believe your state or local governments will significantly improve home-improvement regulations.
What can a homeowner do for their property and home to be protected? You need the right tools and knowledge to protect your home and property from bad home improvements and other situations.
The Home Improvement Success Club of America (TM) will give you the knowledge and tools you need without you spending endless hours researching and trying to figure what to do. The club offers a variety forums, including a chat room, message board and phone consultations, to answer all your questions about home improvement. The Home Improvement Success System is a step-by-step home improvement program that you can use to help you make the right decisions. You can use this system for any project. If you aren’t satisfied with your membership, the club offers a 30-day refund policy.