Board Considers Expanding Contractor Licensing

    A proposed amendment to East Hampton Town’s home improvement contractors law, discussed by the town board on Tuesday, would extend a requirement to obtain $100 licenses to do business in the town to anyone doing paid work at someone’s residence, no matter how small the job.
    A law now on the books exempts landscapers doing “grounds maintenance” or gardening, those doing simple repair or maintenance jobs, and those earning less than $500 for a job.
    The new law, if adopted, would require plumbers and electricians, who are separately licensed by county or state law, to obtain a town license as well. Wind or solar energy systems installers would be included in the license requirement as well.
    The town code amendment was developed during discussions by Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson and Councilwoman Theresa Quigley with local contractors, insurance agents, and a town attorney.
    Rob Connolly, the attorney, presented the details to the board on Tuesday. Mr. Wilkinson said Tuesday that the proposal is an attempt to “even the playing field” for local contractors whose bids are undercut by unlicensed contractors. Those not paying for liability insurance, workers’ compensation, Social Security, and other overhead costs are able to offer lower prices to consumers, and are edging out the legitimate businesses, he said.
    “Not only does he get the job, but it makes the legitimate contractor look like a thief,” said Joe Bloecker, a member of the group that met to discuss the changes to the law.
    “It seemed our out-of-town contractors didn’t have the same restrictions as our local guys,” Mr. Wilkinson said.
    The license requirement for home improvement contractors doing business in East Hampton has been on the books since 1977, and was amended in 2005 and 2006. In order to obtain a license, contractors must show proof of adequate liability insurance and provide information about any previous business names, liens, bankruptcies, criminal convictions, and litigation arising out of home improvement work.
    The proposal under discussion would eliminate a 2006 addition that required contractors to attend at least five hours of applicable continuing education courses each year. Instead, only first-time licensees would be required to show proof of the five classroom hours. 
    All subcontractors on a job, not just the general contractor, would be required to have and display a town license, under the amended code.
    Board members are expected to discuss the code change at a future meeting before scheduling a public hearing on the amendment.