Don't wait around for Paige Davis from "Trading Spaces" or Evan Farmer from "While You Were Out" to come knocking on your door and surprise you with the home makeover of your dreams. Take matters into your own hands — and maybe those of a contractor — to create some makeover magic of your own.
But you don't have to dive in alone. The statewide Professional Remodelers of Ohio, formerly the Greater Cleveland chapter of the National Association of the Remod-eling Industry, is taking steps to
help you feel comfortable in hiring contractors.
PRO is hoping to pass legislation to create the Ohio Home Improvement Examining Board, an entity that would require contractors to register in a database and tracking system. Working from that database, consumers could avoid the con artists who pose as contractors and gain peace of mind from knowing they've hired a skilled professional.
The bill was introduced in April 2004 by state Rep. James Trakas and will be reintroduced early this year. PRO expects the bill to pass by June.
"The bill has been in the works for years," says Richard P. Kasunic Jr., production manager at Regency Windows and president of PRO. "Every time we would be right at the threshold, some kind of opposition would stop it."
Some of that resistance came from NARI, and that helped fuel the push for the formation of PRO.
"There was no unified voice," Kasunic says, citing one of the primary reasons for splitting from NARI. "Instead of letting someone else [outside the industry] write the bill, we want to write it."
If it comes to pass, the Ohio Home Improvement Examining Board will comprise five members chosen from the remodeling industry and professional remodeling associations. The board would also take complaints from the public about possible violations and grievances.
As a safeguard for homeowners who spend a lot of money on contract work, a limit would be imposed on the amount of down payments a contractor can accept. The proposed bill states that no down payment greater than 20 percent can be accepted upon signing of a contract.
There is also a "Three-day Right of Recision," which gives a homeowner the right to be released from a contract without penalty or obligation. Each contractor must carry a minimum of $300,000 in liability insurance, notes Brenda Callaghan, executive director of PRO.
"Consumers should feel at ease," she says. "They will know that the [contractor] is actually registered with workers' compensation and insurance."
While many companies have neglected to disclose arbitration clauses to consumers in the past, hoping they'd just sign the contract and give up their right to sue, the new bill says that there must be a check box on the contract to allow both parties to accept or decline binding arbitration.
Every registered contractor will have to have their registration and license number included in all aspects of advertising and other promotional materials. That way, consumers will know that a contractor has registered with the state of Ohio and that they can depend on the contractor and the board for quality work and professionalism.
"Right now, anyone can call themselves a contractor," Callaghan observes. "All they need is a toolbelt and a sales pitch."
Another plus, at least for honest contractors, is that the state will be able to prosecute contractors who don't follow proper procedures and laws, as well as individuals who pose as contractors only to scam homeowners out of thousands of dollars.
Presently, Ohio is one of 18 states that do not enforce statewide registration and licensing. According to Callaghan, there are an estimated 30,000 contractors in the state actively seeking and performing work.
"The time has come," she says. "We only deal with a small amount of the contractor population and we need help from legislation to bring about a standard that people can be measured against."
For a contractor, registering will cost up to $250 annually. The money generated from fees will be placed in
the Home Improvement Contractor Examining Fund, which will be used toward the education of contractors, their employees and consumers. PRO hopes to establish schools or apprentice programs to encourage careers in residential remodeling.
"When you continue to educate people, the result is a consumer-driven product," Kasunic observes. n
To help those of you who have trouble trying to decide what kind of flooring, faux finishes and electrical outlets to use — or who need help with any other remodeling questions — PRO will be holding the 2005 Professional Home Improvement Show Jan. 27 through 31 at the I-X Center, 6200 Riverside Drive in Brook Park.
Contractors will show samples of their work and offer advice to homeowners interested in updating their homes. Celebrity guests include Carter Oosterhouse from TV's "Trading Spaces."
Thursday, Jan. 27, and Friday, Jan. 28: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 29: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Sunday, Jan. 30: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Adults $9.50, children ages 6 to 12 $4.50,ages 5 and under free (half-price admission for all women on Ladies Day, Jan. 27)