Motion By W.F. Councilors Has BBB Nervous About Contractors' Insurance

The Better Business Bureau is warning residents about the possibility of more uninsured contractors working in Wichita Falls.

That's because on July 5, Wichita Falls City Councilors voted to amend ordinance 33-2011 to remove the requirement for general liability insurance from section 104.3. The BBB says what was taken away from the ordinance was the requirement for contractors to show proof of general liability insurance before they can get licensed with the city. But, certain industries licensed on a state level are still required to carry this in order to be licensed with the state, like electricians and air conditioning contractors.

"This was a very confusing move," said the BBB of North Central Texas President. "Contractors having "liability and worker's compensation insurance" is, to a large extent, for consumer protection," Monica Horton said. "If a worker falls off a homeowner's roof while working, or if your property is damaged, the homeowner could be liable for the injuries and repairs if using an uninsured contractor. That is why it is important to homeowners for contractors to carry insurance that will mitigate that risk."

In the past, consumers could check with the city if a contractor was licensed to work in the city and know that the city had verified the proper bonding and insurance before issuing the license. Now, consumers must now insist on seeing a statement of coverage from the contractor's insurance agent. Typical insurance coverage includes "general liability" that protects you in the event any damage happens to your property during work performance and the other is "worker's compensation" that provides for employees hurt on the job.

The BBB has become aware of at least one formerly unlicensed contractor who is now licensed through the city of Wichita Falls as a result of the ordinance change.

"We are very concerned that there will be a flood of uninsured contractors operating in the city who are now licensed with the city," Horton said. "This could prove to be a major hit to the citizens of Wichita Falls at a financial and legal level should any type of accident or injuries occur on their property," she said.

Here's some tips the BBB is offering before choosing a contractor:

· Plan your project from start to finish.

· Be specific in explaining exactly what you want.

· Be sure to approve any architectural plans that are involved before the contract work begins.

· Compare costs before making a financial commitment and do not let payments get ahead of the work.

· Discuss bids in detail with each contractor we recommend at least three bids.

· Ask the contractor for local references and contact those references.

· Contact your Better Business Bureau for a business review on the contractor.

· Find out if a contractor is insured against claims covering worker's compensation, property damage, and personal liability.

· Check with your local building inspection division to be sure that a contractor meets all area licensing/bonding requirements. In Wichita Falls you can contact the building inspection division at 940-761-7459.