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Unlicensed for Hire

Have you ever called a contractor or electrician for repairs or additions to your electrical system?  Did you ever ask that contractor to show his license?  That might be a good idea, according to state officials.  Melissa Foy and photojournalist Jake Van Donge show us why in "Unlicensed for Hire", a Target 3 special report.
    If you need a contractor or electrician for home repairs and you want to find one offering cheaper rates, finding one on Craigslist or Green Sheet might seem like the best option.
    But officials with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation say do your homework before signing on the dotted line, or you could end up with a bad job and a contractor who's not even licensed.
    That's exactly why state agents recently set up an undercover sting in a Wichita Falls home: to catch unlicensed contractors and electricians.
    William Kuntz, the executive director of TDLR, says, "We do about five stings a year; five to six.  We do them throughout the state.  We work with a realtor in the local area or maybe with a contractor who might have a house that's being constructed."
    John Sanchez, TDLR senior investigator, says, "We want to protect the interests of the citizens here in Wichita Falls as well as the state of Texas. They need to make sure the people they hire to come out and do this type of work are, in fact, licensed."
    "It also takes the individuals that are operating without a license out of that process as they are informed they have to be in compliance with that law or cease that work," Kuntz says.
    Sanchez and his team allowed us inside the home as well.
    We set up several hidden cameras, both inside and outside the house.
    Then Sanchez and the other investigators contacted local electricians and contractors and asked them to come to the house and make bids for electrical and air conditioning repairs.
    "Once we received a bid from them, one of our investigators will do a background check to find out how much information we can get on this individual or individuals and find out if they are truly licensed or not," Sanchez says.
    "If they make an offer to do the business and we find that they're not licensed, we instigate the enforcement actions," Kuntz says.
    If the worker is unlicensed, they'll receive a letter from the department, letting them know they were caught in a sting operation.
    Then TDLR prosecutors will determine whether they should open a case against the individual.
    "If they admit their guilt and they pay the penalty, then that's all we ask them to do," Sanchez says.  "But more so, we want them to get licensed. We want them to get into compliance."
    The sting attracted three electricians.
    Investigators say all three are unlicensed, and have never been licensed in the state.
    They've now opened three investigations against individuals involved in the sting.
    The first is Sheldon Kurtzhals, who investigators say was operating under the company "Jack of all Trades."
    The second is Richard L. Perry.
    Investigators say he was working under the name Innovations LLC, "Affordable Home Repair."
    And last is Lloyd Hosmer, working under the company name "Home Repair."
    TDLR representatives say all three are unlicensed, and have never been licensed electricians in the state of Texas.
    Sanchez says TDLR doesn't want to hurt these individuals' livelihoods.
    They simply want to protect consumers.
    "The department's ultimate goal is to get everyone into compliance. We're not out there to hammer people for doing what they're doing. We want people to get into compliance, meaning we want you to get licensed, and we want you to stop doing this work until you get licensed with us," Sanchez says.
    To find out how to get licensed with the state, and how to check reviews of contractors, go to the TDLR website at www.tdlr.state.tx.us
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