City Nails Contractors Without Licenses

Eight-week sting drops the hammer on more than a dozen companies

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    NBCNewYork
    A contractor's truck gets towed by investigators.

    Sketchy contractors have long been a risk in a city that never stops renovating.

    But New York's Department of Consumer Affairs has stolen a page from the NYPD -- by going undercover to bust the unlicensed crews.

    "We have the power to seize their vehicles and their tools," said Consumer Affairs Commissioner Jonathan Mintz. "Nothing gets an illegal contractor's attention like taking away their tools."

    Mintz told NBCNewYork that an eight-week sting caught 12 unlicensed contractors either offering to do major work or actually advertising their services-- which is also against the law without a license.

    Why should consumers care? Mintz says many of these shady firms have failed to complete projects in the past. That costs people time, money and quality sleep.

    "You're talking about a hole in your roof, [or] a kitchen that doesn't work -- things that can be incredibly disruptive," said Mintz.

    Here's some advice for New Yorkers wanting to know if their contractors are too legit to quit: ask to see a license. Demand a written estimate, and pay with a credit card so you have some banking backup. Also, both the Consumer Affairs Web site and 311 keep a list of all 13,000 licensed contractors in the five boroughs, so it's easy to find someone more reputable.

    The city also maintains a trust fund which can reimburse you for some of the unfinished work, to the tune of up to $15,000 per interrupted project.