There really is no recourse for the consumer when they have used an unlicensed provider because there is no appeal to a regulating agency or authority to sanction the work, get their money back, or keep it from happening again. It is a challenge for licensed contractors competing against unlicensed providers because the unlicensed ones don't have the overhead or insurance and often the requisite training that goes along with being able to serve the consumer effectively.
Most of us remember the amount of work that went into getting our driver's license and how none us want to do anything to jeopardize keeping it. Our livelihoods depend on being able to drive. Yet, there are people that seem to like living on the edge who drive with suspended or revoked licenses - or no license at all. The same goes for having the proper insurance. We know what a hazard it is being on the roadway with people who aren't properly licensed or who don't seem to care about being licensed - or insured to protect them their families, and the driving public.
Now, take that same type of logic and apply it to unlicensed versus licensed contractors. No wonder there is a concern!
So, that said, what if consumers insisted - through an educational campaign and word-of-mouth that stressed this approach rather than a formal regulation - that any general contractor or remodeler they wanted to use (and it doesn't matter what size the project might be or how much it would cost) had to have a CAPS designation?
This is not something that would be a law or regulation - just a best practices for consumers to follow, and one that would help publicize in the marketplace.
The CAPS certification has become quite well-known in recent years, and consumers, as well as professionals, are aware of it. Consumers know that the CAPS designation represents additional training and effort on the part of the contractor to understand ways to modify and improve their homes in a safe fashion - regardless of their present age or physical condition - that will allow them to live more comfortably in their space and to use it well over time also.
So, why wouldn't they want to use someone (a CAPS trained, licensed contractor versus a non-CAPS trained, licensed contractor) to help them who understands their needs - both now and over time - better than someone who might approach a remodeling project for them as they would any other type of construction that doesn't take their situation into account.
Either way, the contractor needs to be licensed. It's just that the CAPS trained one offers a better skill set and range of solutions to the consumer.
Why wouldn't all of us, whether contractors or a related occupation such as an OT, designer, architect, or consultant, want to be that type of provider to be able to give the consumer the highest level of service possible? We just to convey to the potential client the value we offer them because of our CAPS designation and training.
Steve Hoffacker, CAPS, CEAC, SHSS, is a licensed Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist-Master Instructor and best-selling author of universal design books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit stevehoffacker.com or call 561-685-5555. Also, check out the "Aging & Accessibility" groups on Facebook and LinkedIn.