Online service recommending some unlicensed electrical contractors

13 Investigates cautioned consumers against contractors working without the proper credentials in cities where they are supposed to be licensed. WTHR found an online service providing referrals despite the rules.

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) – Homeowners lose more than $ 1 billion each year to electrical fires. Bad outlets, lighting, distribution panels, or wiring can all cause problems.

A bad connection is all that is needed to put your home and family at risk.

13 Investigates cautioned consumers against contractors working without the proper credentials in cities where they are supposed to be licensed. WTHR found an online service providing referrals despite the rules.

Home Advisor “Pros” claims are reviewed and approved

Homeowners in Indiana often turn to internet services like Home Advisor to find bona fide electrical contractors.

Michael Edmonds is a licensed electrician. His company, Electric Today, subscribes to the service.

“They charge us $ 20 to $ 50 up front,” Edmonds told 13 Investigates. He said the advance could go up to five electrical contractors competing for the job.

“It’s in (Home Advisor’s) best interests to send as many as possible,” Edmonds explained.

The online service promises consumers that its network of professionals is both filtered and licensed.

But should we take their word for it?

Edmonds was surprised at the caliber of the competitors he encountered on potential job sites.

“Really no references at all,” he said. “The only thing they have going for them is the cheapest price.”

According to Edmonds, his company is often called in to fix mistakes made by unlicensed contractors who failed to meet strict testing requirements. His experiences prompted him to contact 13 inquiries.

It didn’t take long for WTHR to discover the same alarming problem: contractors in central Indiana boasting of being listed with Home Advisor but not properly licensed, bonded, or insured by cities like Indianapolis which require strict certification.

Owners have no idea workers are unlicensed and breaking the rules

“A lot of people don’t know,” Edmonds said.

13 Investigations caught up with a contractor getting referrals from Home Advisor and breaking the rules in Indianapolis.

Indianapolis Code Sec. 875-201 “requires that an electrical contractor be licensed if he is performing electrical power connection work for on-site construction, for the installation, modification, replacement, maintenance or repair of ” an electricity distribution system; for the maintenance of equipment supplying factory-built homes located in a mobile home park, and for installing, modernizing, replacing, maintaining or repairing all or part of a electricity distribution.

A contractor is not required to hold an electrical license for “the installation or repair of electrical wiring, appliances, appliances, appliances or equipment operating at less than twenty-five (25) volts. and capable of providing less than fifty (50) watts of power, with the exception of fire detection or fire alarms, as defined by the state … A contractor does not need to be a licensed electrical contractor if wiring for computers (less than 25 volts), data systems (less than 25 volts) or security cameras … An unauthorized person may only perform electrical work under the supervision of a licensed electrical contractor.

Stanley Peterman has worked in and around the city for almost 50 years, although the city revoked his license in 2004. According to city records, Peterman used the name of a licensed electrician to obtain municipal permits and perform electrical work without the authorization of the permit holder. surveillance. The City Electrical Board ruled that Peterman was acting “fraudulently or deceitfully” by signing someone else’s name on the permits (Peterman Electric is a separate entity from Peterman Heating and Cooling, which is not part of our survey).

13 Investigators asked Peterman to continue working without a license.

“If the rules say you’re supposed to be licensed to operate in a city, don’t you think you should have to follow that?” »Interviewed 13 Surveys.

“Well, I agree and I disagree,” Peterman replied.

“So for the last 14 years you’ve been doing it without a license?” »13 Inquiries requested.

“Well, I did a few jobs. Yeah,” he admitted.

Peterman went on to tell 13 Investigates that he also had to redo electrical work done by unqualified contractors and that he understood the safety concerns.

He confirmed that he had completed a complete re-wiring on the street from where we caught up with him.

City inspectors warned to ‘stay on the lookout’ for unlicensed electrical contractor

In January, the city’s electrical council found out that Peterman was working at this particular site unattended. The council said it would warn code enforcement inspectors to “watch Stanley Peterman and Peterman Electric”.

“What do you think of that?” interviewed 13 Surveys.

“I think someone is mad at me downtown or something because I never had a complaint. I never had an inspection that didn’t pass,” he said. Peterman said without apologizing. He told 13 Investigates that he was a self-taught electrician and had a certificate of insurance.

But Peterman confirmed that he did not pass the board-certified test to obtain his electrical license.

“Not in Indianapolis. No,” he said.

Only 1 in 4 people pass the open book electrical test

“It’s pretty scary when you think about it”

The Indianapolis test is the same four-hour open book exam required in cities like Anderson, Richmond, and Terre Haute.

It costs $ 100 and requires a passing score of 75 percent to obtain a license.

“About 75 percent do not pass this test,” said Dennis Sheets, chairman of the Indianapolis Electrical Board. “So how many people don’t even pass the test and do electrical work? It’s pretty scary when you think about it.”

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Emphasizing the seriousness of the licensing problem, Sheets added, “We burn houses when it’s not done right.”

In Indianapolis, a license also means that a contractor is bonded for at least $ 10,000 and insured. This is all part of the city’s requirements for accreditation.

“It’s very important that the people who have things done in their homes have some protection if something goes wrong,” Sheets said.

He said homeowners can file a complaint against a contractor’s bond if a project is not properly repaired. Insurance helps homeowners perceive if there is damage or injury.

Another problem, according to Sheets, is that some contractors believe that if something doesn’t require a permit, they don’t need to be licensed to do the work. He says it is wrong.

Sheets was stunned to learn that a service like Home Advisor makes referrals without checking local license records.

“It really shouldn’t be allowed. It kind of leads our consumers into a kind of false situation,” he said.

Indiana does not have a statewide license for electrical contractors

In the fine print, Home Advisor said it was checking state licenses.

But Indiana does not have a statewide license for electricians. Each city sets its own rules.

And according to Home Advisor’s disclaimer, the service said, “Home Advisor does not review or verify any information or representations set forth by profiles (of contractors).”

This disclaimer opens the door for entrepreneurs to make the claims they want.

“I can drive you around this city and I can show you a lot of people who don’t have licenses,” insisted Peterman, who said he was preparing to retire soon.

“There are a lot of people who come to this city and are not licensed and shouldn’t be working in this city. But you can’t catch them all,” Sheets added.

The city of Indianapolis has imposed fines of up to $ 5,000 on unauthorized electricians who are caught breaking the rules.

Sheets said he would like to see Indiana move to a statewide licensing system to make sure everyone adheres to the same rules. He noted that past efforts to create such a system failed in the legislature.

With so much variation from city to city, homeowners have the task of checking the credentials of a potential contractor and determining their own comfort level.

Homeowners should also ensure that their contractors have obtained the proper permits to carry out the work, regardless of the city in which they live. These permits can help ensure that a code inspector will make a follow-up visit to review the work performed.

Declaration of the home counselor

In a statement from her Colorado headquarters to 13 Investigates, Home Advisor’s Emily Doyle said:

“We perform state-level criminal, civil and licensing checks on business owners before they join our site, and we encourage consumers to confirm the local license before hiring. We also review any concerns that a consumer raises about a particular professional in our network. . “

Indianapolis a website filled with licensed electrical contractors to choose from. Many contracts also cover the surrounding areas.


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Patricia D. Rutt