Stettner broaches licensing contractors

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— A proposed state law that would make it more difficult for homeowners to sue builders has one Steamboat Springs City Council member ready to require contractors to be licensed.

At a Feb. 25 meeting, City Councilwoman Arianthe Stettner asked the city to begin researching what it would take to have contractors licensed within the city.

Because the statewide proposition, House Bill 1161, threatens to take away homeowners' ability to sue for triple damages and limits what damages could be covered in a claim, Stettner said requiring contractors to be licensed is one way of giving homeowners protection.

"We need to help protect citizens from those who would misrepresent themselves," Stettner said.

House Bill 1161 would give homebuilders more legal protection and amend the Construction De-fect Action Reform Act. The bill was passed by both the House and Senate and on Friday, the House rejected the Senate's amendments. The bill will now go to a House-Senate conference committee for consideration.

The state of Colorado licenses plumbers and electrical contractors, but not general contractors or other construction contractors. Routt County requires contractors to be registered and have proof of liability insurance and workers compensation insurance.

Cities around the state, including Craig, Boulder and Fort Collins, require contractors to be licensed and to take tests. They also must provide background information.

Stettner said people have all heard stories of contractors who have misrepresented themselves, run out on a job or performed shoddy work.

In the last few years of the construction boom, Stettner said the city and contractors have been too busy to look at licensing.

"Had we had licensing then, maybe some of the glitches and some of the serious (problems) might not have happened," Stettner said.

When Stettner brought the idea to council, Councilman Steve Ivancie said contractors might not think licensing is such a bad idea. When Ivancie talked to contractors about licensing a few years ago, he said they generally supported it.

Craig Community Develop-ment Director David Costa said the contractors in his city do not mind the regulations.

"Most of the folks that come to town are pleased with the licensing program because it keeps unqualified competition out of the market," Costa said.

Craig implemented the licensing program in 1986. It requires contractors to take a four-hour, written test on the city's building code, provide a list of references, show proof of four years of experience in the construction business, show proof of liability insurance and show proof of workers compensation insurance.

In a memo Steamboat City Planning Director Steve Stamey gave to the council, Stamey recommended the city wait to implement a contractor licensing program until the beginning of 2004. At that time, Stamey anticipates the city and county will be asked to adopt the International Building Code.

Stamey's memo also stated that having a contractor licensing program would require additional time and money to create and administer the test, and track and enforce the licenses.

Stettner stressed the council is just taking baby steps as it looks at whether contractors should be licensed.

"We want to make sure it engages our community and reflects what our professionals think is important to address," Stettner said.

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