By Garrett Estrada

Ely Times Staff Writer

Hiring a licensed contractor in the state of Nevada has many benefits for homeowners, but according to Rennell Barney of Barney Building and Construction, many licensed contractors in the local area are losing business to unlicensed workers who undercut on the price.

Without a license, many of these workers are able to drop their price just enough to make their services tempting to unsuspecting homeowners, and Barney thinks it’s time people know that not only is the practice hurting businesses like his, it is also illegal.

“It is getting to a point where it seems like there are more unlicensed contractors in Ely then there are licensed ones,” Barney said.

Legally speaking, there are certain kinds of projects that must be performed by a licensed contractor. According to the Nevada State Contractors Board, any work on electrical, plumbing, heating or air conditioning work must be performed by a licensed contractor since any mistakes could lead to safety concerns.

Any project that costs more than a total of $1,000 for material and labor also must be done by someone with a license as well as requiring a building permit. Scott Smith from the NSCB Public Information office said that it’s common for business owners like Barney to speak up about the problem, causing NSCB criminal investigators to take a closer look.

“Generally we start investigating when we get complaints either from licensed contractors when they see unlicensed people take their business and take advantage of their customers or it is from a customer who has had work done themselves and found that the work was inferior,” Scott Smith of the NSCB public information office said.

Dale Richardson is one such investigator who has recently had an interest to the Ely and McGill area. While he was unable to speak to ongoing investigations, Barney described Richardson’s early efforts as “cleaning house” as he started handing out citations to guilty parties.

“We work with the district attorney to prosecute vigorously throughout the state. Your first offense is a misdemeanor, your second offense is a gross misdemeanor and your third offense is a felony,” Smith said.

District Attorney Kelly Brown said he hasn’t seen many cases come across his desk regarding the matter. However the recent efforts from Richardson could make that increase.

As for those that don’t see why it would make much of a difference beyond possibly saving a bit of money of the work to their house, Smith said consider this. If a licensed contractor makes any mistakes on their work, the NSCB can fight on the homeowner’s behalf to get their money back and to get the work fixed. Trying to get anything from unlicensed work gone bad is near impossible, Smith said.

He added that most times homeowners don’t realize they might be hiring someone unlicensed, so he recommends to always ask for the contractor’s license number and to verify it with a quick phone call to the NSCB at (775) 688-1141.