Unlicensed HVAC contractors may seem like a good proposition but they can often become a false economy.
Thanks to the recent economic downturn, which has still not fully recovered, cash strapped families and businesses have been turning to cheaper options for HVAC work. Combine this with the onset of some serious summer heat and you have the perfect conditions for unlicensed HVAC work. More often than not that saving comes hand in hand with little or no licensing. Although using unlicensed contractors can mean you may benefit from an immediate saving the long term repercussions can include:
Shoddy craftsmanship – Possibly the most noticeable and damaging result of working with unlicensed contractors is the poor level of craftsmanship. This can lead to all manner of issues such as no heating or cooling, leaking systems and inefficient or dangerous set ups.
Deceitful troubleshooting techniques – As with any service you don’t fully understand yourself you put your trust in HVAC contractors to be honest and only carry out work that’s required. Unfortunately, when it comes to unlicensed contractors, you run a far higher chance of falling foul of misleading information that can result in your overpaying or even paying for work that never needed to be done.
Standards and law avoidance – Licensed contractors have to operate to all health and safety regulations and laws and standards that are put in place to minimise risk to the environment, the contractor and yourself. Unlicensed contractors aren’t bound by these safety measures and therefore pose a substantially higher threat to themselves and anyone that will encounter their installs.
Warranty voiding – Installations by unlicensed contractors will often void manufacturer warranties, leaving you in the cold should something go wrong with your system. This is due to the fact the installer isn’t licensed and therefore is extremely unlikely to be qualified. This is a fantastic example of how using an unlicensed contractor can result in a false economy.
Personal safety – Hiring unlicensed contractors can also put yours and your family’s personal safety at risk. Not only can they leave HVAC equipment in a dangerous condition but they can also steal from you and even copy keys while you are away to return and empty your home later.
Lack of insurance – If an uninsured worker falls or hurts themselves on your property you can be liable for any costs incurred. This isn’t the case with a licensed HVAC contractor.
What Licensed Contractors Do (and Why It’s Good)
We must stress that it’s not just about the shortcomings of unlicensed contractors but also about the extra steps licensed contractors take. For example, licensed contractors:
– Pay taxes
– Buy and maintain yearly insurance
– Run background checks on prospective new employees
– Abide by all laws and regulations that, of course, exist for a reason
– Carry out and welcome inspections
These points combine to create a respectable, professional and guaranteed service. The benefits of which are wide ranging and worth the extra spend.
Tips to Make Sure You’re Protected
If you are about to embark on a HVAC project or feel you may be dealing with a possibly unlicensed contractor there are a few things you can do to help protect yourself.
Do your research – Get quotes from a number of different companies before you undertake any work. This doesn’t just save you from paying through the nose for work it also allows you to ensure you choose the correct contractor.
Avoid large down payments – This can be a signifier of an unlicensed contractor. You should never have to put down more than 25% of the cost before the project is completed.
Get everything in writing – An unlicensed contractor may be keen to reach a verbal agreement with you. Never go ahead with the work before having a signed written agreement between yourself and the contractor.
Ask for referrals or references – Asking for contact information of previous happy customers should help you to ensure you are working with the right kind of contractor. If they are reluctant or unwilling to provide references it should raise a red flag.
Check where your money goes – If you’re asked to make cheques out to an individual or asked to pay cash in hand it could be an issue. All payments should be made via credit card or cheque to the company you are working with.
3 Simple Checks
There are three simple checks you can carry out to ensure a HVAC contractor you are working with is licensed in the UK. By asking to see proof of insurance, any relevant qualifications and accreditations and, of course, F-gas certification you can be pretty confident your contractor is licensed.
Written by Ryan Hill