Beware of the Unlicensed Contractor! – Part 1

We’ve got some horror stories we could tell. As a licensed and insured HVAC contractor in the Beverly Hills, Culver City, Mar Vista, Miracle Mile, Hollywood, West Hollywood, Los Angeles, West Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Marina Del Rey, Pacific Palisades, Brentwood, Bel Air, Westwood, Downtown Los Angeles, Vernon, Huntington Park, Sherman Oaks, Encino area, our service technicians have been called out to many homes for a No-heat, or No-AC call. In some cases, after doing a standard inspection and some basic troubleshooting the cause is obvious. The installation, or at the very least the last repair that was done, was performed by an unlicensed HVAC contractor. Informing the homeowner is probably the hardest part of the job: The scammer got the last laugh.

It’s one thing to explain to a homeowner that “XYZ” has failed or broken and needs to be fixed. It’s a different story when we have to say that the last person to work on their unit (or the installers themselves) were not licensed. In other words, the homeowner was scammed. The result may be a poorly done job, but the worst part is that an installation done by an unlicensed contractor voids the manufacturer's warranty. And if the homeowner was hoping to recoup some or all of the expense for a repair, then their hopes are dashed.

There’s good news, on one hand: most areas of the U.S. have laws and regulations against unlicensed HVAC contractors. On the other hand, enforcement of such laws is difficult, if it even exists. So what do you as the homeowner do? It’s a complicated position. For example, you could request to see a contractor’s license, but then how do you know if it hasn’t expired, or that it isn’t a falsified document? How can you make sure you don’t get taken advantage of?

Well, there’s something we can draw from the words of Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the UN: “Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.” The folks here at GAMA Air what to help by providing you with some knowledge and information, with the hope that you are educated at least a little bit more on the subject.

First, it would be helpful to know the primary reason for the laws and regulations that exist regarding licensing contractors. While some people (even some in the heating and cooling industry) complain about such regulations thinking that it is just a bunch of bureaucracy, the truth is these rules are meant to protect the consumer, that is, they are meant to protect YOU! For one thing, an improper installation could result in damage to the home or injury to the occupants. A fire could break out due to an electrical problem, or worse yet, there could be a gas leak that could lead to disastrous consequences. Another thing to ask yourself is this: If a worker is trying to pass himself off as a legitimate licensed contractor, when in fact he is not, why is he being dishonest, what is he hiding, and what does he have to gain? Getting paid for the work, which will likely be sub-par, is one gain in his favor. But think about it: Inviting someone into your home to work on the central heating and cooling system gives him access to your home, its contents, and he will leave with a decent knowledge of your daily activities. Would you invite them in if you knew they were lying to you from the very moment they said hello?

Now, we understand that money talks, and it would be silly on our part to not acknowledge that every family has to consider the costs of repairing their AC system, or maybe changing out their heating system. It is very likely that the homeowners we mention earlier, the ones where we’ve got horror stories we could tell you, were most likely trying to save money and went with an offer from someone who could do the job cheap. But remember: “Knowledge is power. Information is liberating.” So let us give you some key points to consider when you are deciding who to call, whether it is for something routine like the semi-annual maintenance you want done on your air conditioner and heater, or if it is something big like replacing your entire central heating and cooling system. Hopefully at the end you will agree with us: There is more to it than just money.

Stay tuned for our next installment about “Beware of the Unlicensed Contractor!”.

If you need a safety inspection and tune-up, use our online form to schedule a visit. Or if you are ready to get a no-obligation quote for a new system, use this online form to schedule a visit. Or you can call GAMA Air at (310) 651-6936 to talk to a live person.

Curious about something related to your heating system? Visit our Ask an Expert page and let us know what’s on your mind.

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