Dirty Jobs: 1 in 5 City Contractors Busted For Working Illegally

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A summer sting operation by the city found that one in five contractors were operating illegally, the Department of Consumer Affairs said Wednesday.

A fifth of the 380 contractors investigated in May and June were operating illegally, the DCA found. Most of the illegal work was being done on Staten Island and in Queens.

"We really want to get the message to the illegal contractors that they will be held accountable by the city, and we really want to get the message to consumers that this is a significant risk that they don't need to take and they shouldn't take," said DCA commissioner Jonathan Mintz.

The city requires all contractors be licensed if they do more than $200 worth of work. They are required to contribute $200 to a consumer trust fund when they’re initially licensed, and undergo a background check and fingerprinting. The license itself costs $100 for two years.

The penalty for operating without a license includes a fine that can vary depending on the contractor's history and the cost of storage for seized vehicles and tools. There is also a $1,000 fine and a $100-per-day fee that the business was operating illegally.

So far this summer, the DCA has seized 72 unlicensed contractors' trucks and tools.

Mintz said the DCA routinely receives complaints from consumers about faulty or unfinished contract work.

Only consumers who use licensed contractors can be reimbursed through the DCA's consumer trust fund when a contractor walks away from an unfinished job.

The DCA says consumers should always use a licensed contractor, ask contractors for references, get written estimates on work and never pay cash for repairs or renovation.  

Consumers can check whether a contractor is licensed online at nyc.gov/consumers.