Online licence checks help prevent renovation fraud
Calgarians who are planning a renovation now have a new tool to help protect themselves from fraud. The City of Calgary is launching an online database where citizens can go to see a list of all licensed contractors before deciding who to hire.
While having a business licence does not guarantee that a contractor can be trusted, generally it is a good indication that a business is legitimate and that the owner’s identity is known by The City. Contractors are also required to have a licence before they can get construction permits, which means hiring a licensed company is an important first step to ensuring your renovation complies with all bylaws and building codes.
“We’ve built the Licensed Trade Contractor tool to help Calgarians verify if a trade contractor is licensed with The City, which is an important first step before selecting a contractor for your next home renovation or repair,” said Kevin Griffiths, Director Inspections & Permit Services with The City's Planning and Development department. “Helping Calgarians find certified and licensed contractors is one way to avoid potential scams, and ensure work is done to applicable code and bylaw requirements.”
“Being a victim of a renovation or contractor fraud can cost a person thousands of dollars in a very short period of time,” said S/Sgt. Kristie Verheul with the Calgary Police Service’s Economic Crimes Unit. “Business licences provide a layer of accountability for contractors because we can find out who owns the company. Companies who go through the process of getting a business licence have also shown that, at some level, it matters to them that they operate within the law.”
In addition to checking whether a company has a business licence, Calgary police also recommend that Calgarians:
- Hire a reputable contractor that can provide references of previous work.
- Obtain an estimate, in writing, from more than one contractor before selecting.
- Be cautious of upfront deposits as only contractors who have a Pre-Paid Contractor’s Licence from Service Alberta can ask for a deposit. You can check for these licences by calling 1-877-427-4088.
- Have a contractor sign a written contract that includes a start date, completion date, full details of the work and materials, and the complete cost.
- Ask whether the contractor carries liability insurance. It is not required by law, but if a company does not have this, any damage to property resulting from the renovation may not be covered.
The City’s new online business licence database comes just in time for the last week of Fraud Prevention Month, when police agencies, government departments, consumer protection interest groups, and businesses come together for an annual awareness campaign on the most common frauds.
The database can be checked by visiting www.calgary.ca/contractors, or licences can still be checked over the phone by calling 403-268-5521.