Contractor won't share license info w/o signed contract?

19 Replies | Chicago, Illinois

Hi,

I am in talks with a masonry company to do some major repairs to my chimney. I have been sent an estimate already, but when I asked for the contractor's license info (they were referred to me by my carpenter) I was told I wouldn't be able to get that info until I signed a contract. Is this Standard Operating Procedure? I'd like to do my due diligence about the company, especially since this work involves some major coin. Thanks!

What name is on the bid? Every state has license lookup websites. Maybe he doesn't have a license and will work under someone else?????

@Caroline,

So far everything has been done by text message. He's sent me photos of this guys work, the guy's name but nothing else. Of course I don't know what these photos are from, and though I trust my carpenter from the work we've done together, I prefer to be more thorough.

This is not ok! His license number should be on his truck, on his proposal, letterhead, Etc. It is a law that you must disclose your Lic # just so people can look it up and verify you. Based on this, I wouldn't trust this guy at all. Go find some one yourself.

Speaking of which, what is your carpenter's Contr Lic#? :-)

Personally, I wouldn't do business with someone who refused to show me their license to do work before the contract is signed.

You could/should ask your Carpenter about this situation and ask his opinion about the response from this contractor.

I do not believe that the State of Illinois requires that mason contractors be licensed by the State.

However, local municipalities and cities might/do require that mason contractors be licensed.

Here is a link from the City of Chicago website that shows the current names of mason contractors who are licensed with the City:

https://webapps1.chicago.gov/masonContractorsWeb/;jsessionid=J41s6FFaGYBLS_Uwrpx502ScL7KJZkAZWDbIi2G_.dw07avl25:s25-WEB1EXTb?0

If your contractor is not on this list, that should be a major red flag for you.

Good luck.

If it were my situation, I'd pass on this guy and just do a google search and get 3 or 4 bids.

Then ask for 3 or 4 recent references of jobs similar to yours in size and scope and call them all.

Ask about their experience with the contractor, on time, on budget, workmanlike quality, etc...

Then drive over and see the work in person.

If everything is up to your standards--you may have a good bidder.

Originally posted by @Jay Garrison :

Hi,

I am in talks with a masonry company to do some major repairs to my chimney. I have been sent an estimate already, but when I asked for the contractor's license info (they were referred to me by my carpenter) I was told I wouldn't be able to get that info until I signed a contract. Is this Standard Operating Procedure? I'd like to do my due diligence about the company, especially since this work involves some major coin. Thanks!

Your carpenter is getting a fee from the contractor to refer the contractor. He doesn't want to lose his fee by you going around him. I think it's dishonest and unprofessional to not disclose things like that and I never use a contractor I can't vet. I've used unlicensed contractors, but I knew it up front and decided to take the risk on my own, well informed, experience. So no, if he won't allow you to talk to the contractor or review his license, it's a "No Go". The guy will disappear at the first sign of trouble and you'll be left holding the bag.

Run don't walk to the nearest exit. Do not pass Go, Do not Collect $200.00 and whatever else you do, DON"T sign that contract.

How can you perform due diligence if the contractor will not show you his license?

Due Diligence hints:

1. Get a copy of the license. Verify the license with the State of Illinois. There are two places to check. One is the department of Professional Regulation for hair stylists, roofers etc. The other is the Department of Insurance for insurance agents.

2. Get proof of work comp insurance DIRECTLY from the insurance company. We are mailed proof of insurance every year for the plumber, electrician and lawn care company we use. The reason to get it from the insurance company is contractor fraud. White out and a copy machine can make it look like the expired policy is current. It can also be a fake policy proof.

3. Get proof of general liability insurance the same way and for the same reasons.

4. Get addresses for the work in the photos. Any hesitation usually means less than satisfied customers.

5. Use google to see if the exterior photos you receive match the address listed.  If the photos match go see the work photo addresses and knock on the door. Ask the resident about the work and who did it.

6. Never sign a contract without running it by your attorney. Many contracts contain hold harmless clauses.

7. Get the contractor to purchase a single job performance bond. They will resist this. YOU should offer to reimburse them as part of the contract. This is a little extreme but if you have doubts protect yourself. If they refuse your gut instinct could have been right all along.

9. In Illinois, Corporations and LLCs are registered with the Secretary of States office. Check to see if the entity is current and who the registered agent is. Contact the registered agent and verify the contractor works for the company.

Good Luck and Good Investing

Do not use unlicensed contractors or subs!  too much is at risk and the bill goes up quickly if things go wrong 

i learned this the hard way

While having a license does not mean they are any good it does mean they have a bond and there should be a mechanism to protect you in case of fraud or shoddy work. 

@Jay Garrison everything sounded ok until you said this was all done via text. I would meet the guy at the property and get a real bid. I also would ask more questions. Like others have mentioned, an unlicensed sub might be an ok risk in some situations but you want to know what you are getting into. Masonry has always been tricky for me since all my best guys don't have licenses. The licensed masons I have spoken to are literally triple what the unlicensed guys are. In a perfect world I would build that into the cost, but that's not always easy to do. 

Originally posted by @Jay Garrison :

Hi,

I am in talks with a masonry company to do some major repairs to my chimney. I have been sent an estimate already, but when I asked for the contractor's license info (they were referred to me by my carpenter) I was told I wouldn't be able to get that info until I signed a contract. Is this Standard Operating Procedure? I'd like to do my due diligence about the company, especially since this work involves some major coin. Thanks!

It's not Standard Operating Procedure. While you can check to see if he has a license with the Secretary of State, the fact that he won't share his license is a red flag. Move on.

Coming from a Licensed and Insured GC this is a red flag. In NJ if you are performing any renovation tasks over $500 you need to be licensed and insured. My license number is on all my documents and on my trucks and I send my insurance proof with client as additional insured when asked. If the client doesn't ask me then I update that info once I get signed agreement. This guy also did everything via text?? No contract?? That is an issue as well. You need a good quality contract with scope off work and protection in case of problems. They may not happen often but you will kick yourself in the *** the first time someone runs off with your money and you can't get anything back because you don't have legal contract. Or you're going back and forth over who is in charge of removing the brick at the end of the job and you have to pay $1,000 in dumpster fees. Always protect yourself and do things the right way! Go on rocketlaywer.com for something generic and fill it out for all contractors if they don't supply them themselves since most don't!!

I’ll give an opposing view point as someone who hires a ton of people and am contacted a ton for work. You might just difficult to work with. The majority of these people who responsed on here would never work with any of my great subs.

Come bid a job for free and provide a list of customers you can harass? Why? Everyone even reasonably priced is booked out months. This isn’t 2009. If you do what is advised above being new you will likely pay at least double if not triple what the job could cost. Only big companies with sales people charging insane amounts out of money will get abused like this. Good luck, but unless you doing a major job, a referral and a guy that shows up offering a decent price is a great sign. Obviously, licensed people are better but it does depend if the job. And tuck pointing, sidewalks, and lots of other smaller masonry jobs you don’t even need a license in many parts of the country. Plus, he said he’d provide it later. He might just be sick of your 15 emails.

It’s just not 2009 anymore.

@Jay Garrison

Until you See a license and proof on insurance, there is none!

Trust is an emotion, unless it is backed by paper and more!

I would move on, unless there is a personal reason that this is who you NEED! (DOUBT IT!)

You could write a contract with a contingency that you can back out for any reason.

It's not the worst thing if there is no license.

Without proof of insurance and coverages to manage possible emergencies, you might as well drive your truck to Home Depot early in the mornings and get your contractors!

Thanks everyone for the replies. I felt as though it were fishy and though (like everyone else) I am having trouble finding reliable contractors these days, I am going to take a pass on this one. 

What @John Warren stated is true and accurate in the real world of construction and I agree with him.  One additional noteworthy situation is; there are unscrupulous people who will take license numbers and attach them to permits without the contractors permission or even using the contractor to perform the work.  This is not as common as it was years ago, but it still does occur.  This may cause your bircky to be cautious.

The bottom line is…do your due diligence and check references.  Good luck,

Originally posted by @Josh C. :

I’ll give an opposing view point as someone who hires a ton of people and am contacted a ton for work. You might just difficult to work with. The majority of these people who responsed on here would never work with any of my great subs.

Come bid a job for free and provide a list of customers you can harass? Why? Everyone even reasonably priced is booked out months. This isn’t 2009. If you do what is advised above being new you will likely pay at least double if not triple what the job could cost. Only big companies with sales people charging insane amounts out of money will get abused like this. Good luck, but unless you doing a major job, a referral and a guy that shows up offering a decent price is a great sign. Obviously, licensed people are better but it does depend if the job. And tuck pointing, sidewalks, and lots of other smaller masonry jobs you don’t even need a license in many parts of the country. Plus, he said he’d provide it later. He might just be sick of your 15 emails.

It’s just not 2009 anymore.

You managed to miss the point. A contractor who is not required to have a license would just say so. This mason is saying he has one but won't provide it. Quite a difference. And illegal.

And I'd like to meet your 'great subs'.