Hobart officials looking at ways to protect residents from issues with contractors

2013-01-27T00:00:00Z Hobart officials looking at ways to protect residents from issues with contractorsDeborah Laverty deborah.laverty@nwi.com, (219) 762-1397, ext. 2223 nwitimes.com

HOBART | The city is limited in what it can do to protect residents from potential problems with contractors, City Attorney Anthony DeBonis said.

"You can take the city license away from the contractor or fine him, but that's the extent of the contractor board's authority," DeBonis said.

DeBonis made his comments at a recent City Council ordinance committee meeting during which officials discussed ways to strengthen the existing ordinances regulating contractors.

"We need something with more teeth," City Councilman Pete Mendez, D-2nd said.

The council has been looking for ways to help protect residents after learning of several homeowners who paid contractors but didn't get their work completed.

Mike Hannigan, a building official, recommended, and the City Council agreed, to increase the $5,000 performance bond now required by the city to $10,000.

Hannigan said the increased performance bond would put Hobart in line with that of most cities the same size.

Council members also agreed to look into requiring insurance companies to inform the city if a contractor's insurance had been canceled. DeBonis continued to caution the council about what it can and can't do.

"There's other agencies out there for dealing with consumer protection," DeBonis said.

When it comes to dealing with contractors, city officials need to focus on city issues such as violation of building codes.

"If the contractor violates a building code then they can revoke or suspend his license," DeBonis said.

But if the issue involves the homeowner not liking the contractor's work, then that's another matter, DeBonis said.

Those cases, in which the homeowner has issues with the contractor, should go to civil court. DeBonis said residents must sign contracts with contractors and then make them follow suit.

"You just don't hand over money to someone without something in writing. Folks have to understand this," DeBonis said.

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