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Oregon board joins with Feds; Unlicensed subs working on home renos a common problem on the Oregon coast.

COURTESY: OREGON CONSTRUCTION CONTRACTORS BOARD - Stan Jessup, Enforcement Program Manager,
Oregon Construction Contractors Board

The Oregon Construction Contractors Board (CCB) turned up more than a dozen unlicensed contractors and other alleged violations in June as part of an annual multi-state effort targeting the construction industry.

The CCB found 32 alleged violations during unannounced visits to 157 jobs sites along the northern Oregon Coast from Newport to Astoria. Most of these alleged violations involved people working on home improvement projects with a CCB contractor license, including contractors who hired unlicensed subcontractors.

Although the CCB conducts investigations across the state on a monthly, or bimonthly, basis, the June sweep was part of a national enforcement effort coordinated by the National Association of State Contractors Licensing Agencies (NASCLA).

This "free-for-all" sweep occurs once a year, and any state that wants to participate can choose where they want to investigate and what they want to focus their efforts on, CCB Enforcement Program Manager Stan Jessup said.

"These concentrated enforcement efforts highlight the work our individual field investigators do every day in an effort to protect consumers from unlicensed contractors and to level the playing field for legitimate contractors," Lead Investigator Eric McLauchlin said.

Over the course of three weeks of investigations, 10 participating NASCLA State Members, including Oregon and Washington, reported a total of 779 cases found non-compliant with state licensing requirements.

"The goal of this operation was to elevate consumer protection and deter illegal construction practices," NASCLA Executive Director Angie Whitaker said in a statement. "The shared commitment of our state members brought awareness to unlicensed activity and spotlighted the contractor state licensing and registration boards nationally."

Last year's nationally coordinated sweep in Oregon found 83 suspected violations during visits to 380 job sites in the Bend area and along the northern border from Astoria to Pendleton.

As construction has picked up, the number of sweeps has increased over the last couple years. However, violations have not risen excessively with the economy, Jessup said. Over the past year, the number of cases has stayed consistent.

"We just added another field investigator," Jessup said. "We're at maximum capacity for employment right now. We're just refining the way we look at areas and the way we track contractors once they're found."

With new methods for locating and tracking the activity of unlicensed contractors, the CCB has been able to close cases more quickly. At one point in time, the compliance section may have had 800 to 900 cases open at a time, but now they typically have only 100 to 130 cases open at any given time.

"There are less and less challenges because of things like social media," Jessup said. "Ten years ago it was very difficult to find someone. You might have known who they were but not where they were to serve them with violation notices."

If violations are minor and isolated, they may result in a warning letter, but more serious or repeated violations can result in fines of up to $5000.

CCB investigators also recently finished another two day sweep of 61 sites in Yamhill County, turning up seven alleged violations, most of which involved working without a license.

Contractors and consumers can report unlicensed contractors and other illegal activity on the CCB's website or by calling 503-934-2246.

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