Since first requiring continuing education (CE) for contractors in 2010, Oregon has struggled to find the right set of requirements that are meaningful for contractors without being onerous. Since 2010, there have been two attempts to correct problems with the requirements for residential contractors. The most recent version of the requirements took effect January 1, 2014.
Since then, contractors have continued to criticize the program. Common complaints are that courses are not relevant, choices of courses and providers are too limited, and costs are too high. We have also heard from stakeholder groups and legislators, many of whom share these same frustrations. We have been listening to you!
We decided to conduct a survey to see what changes we could make that would result in a meaningful CE program that contractors would value. The main themes from the results of the survey were: contractors want to choose the courses they feel are most helpful and relevant to their work; they want more choices of providers where they can take courses; they want exemptions from some requirements if they are required to complete CE for other licenses they hold; and they want to see the costs reduced.
The Board approved a course of action to amend the CE requirements to accomplish these changes, which requires a combination of rule changes and legislation to change the law. The rule changes took effect July 1.
In the new rules, we have expanded CE exemptions for contractors who have electrical, plumbing, master builder, landscape contractor, home inspector, or architect and engineer licenses.
To accomplish the rest of the necessary changes to the CE requirements, we have introduced legislation for the 2017 legislature. If the legislation is successful, it will allow the CCB to give our courses free of charge (eliminating the $45 for three hours contractors now pay); it will give contractors more choice over the courses they want to take; and it will allow participation of more CE providers by eliminating the provider fees. We may need to request a modest increase in the contractor license fee to replace lost revenue from the CE program. We are currently developing our budget for 2017-19 to determine if this will be necessary.
We are listening to you! We will keep you informed. If you have comments on continuing education, feel free to share your thoughts with us. You can reach our Education section at 503-934-2227.
continuing education. This list applies to both residential and commercial contractors.
These two changes affectthe pre-licensure program.
The CCB grants hour-for-hour continuing education credit for home inspectors who host “ride alongs”
for home inspector applicants. Find a form on the CCB website that must be signed by both the hosting home inspector
and the home inspector-in-training.
Changing your managing personnel?
Oregon law requires that licensees notify CCB when a corporate officer, LLC member or trustee changes (OAR 812-003-0325).
In addition to submitting the Personnel Change Form, which can be found on our website, one of the following must also be included: a copy of the board or trust’s meeting minutes, a letter from the licensee’s attorney, a letter from human resources, or a copy of a resignation letter.
It is critical that CCB records are kept current so that CCB and consumers know who is managing the construction business at all times. For example, if an officer isn’t removed from the license in a timely manner, and a construction debt is incurred, that individual may still be held liable for the debt.
If you have questions about personnel changes, please contact the Customer Service Unit at 503-378-4621, and they’ll be happy to help you.
Latest penalty report
Every month, the CCB posts a list of penalties assessed against contractors for violations of construction contracting regulations. You can find that list here
CCB board changes
The CCB recently elected James Patrick of Newport to be its new Board chair, and Jerry Jones, Jr., of Beaverton, to be its new vice chair.
The Board has been joined by a new member, Eric Olson, who is a home inspector and general contractor from Salem.
At this time, there is one vacant seat on the Board for a public member. If you are interested and have questions about joining the CCB Board, contact Administrator Jim Denno at 503-934-2184.
What happens when a complaint is filed against you?
Enforcement Manager Stan Jessup
Often I find that contractors don’t really understand the Dispute Resolution Services (DRS) complaint process, so hopefully this will give you an idea of what to expect.
First off, avoid the need to end up in the dispute process by communicating with your customer. This starts early in the project with a clear and concise contract that specifies what you will be doing, what materials you will use, when you
expect to have the work completed and what responsibility the property owner has. Be sure to promptly return calls or
emails. ALWAYS write up change orders when there is a change to the project, especially if there is a cost involved.
Now you have a dispute and your customer decides you are wrong and they want to file a complaint. The law requires the consumer, subcontractor or material supplier to send a Pre-Complaint Notice to your address of record 30 days prior to filing the formal complaint. Note that they will have proper legal service when they use the address on your license, even if you have not kept it up to date, as required.
Once the notice is sent, you must act within the 30 days and try to get the matter resolved. At this point, nothing has hit your license record but it will once the complaint is filed, so act now rather than later. Contact the complainant!
When the 30 days has passed and the complainant files the complaint, a DRS analyst will determine whether CCB has jurisdiction. Assuming the complaint is timely and CCB has jurisdiction, copies of all submitted documents are sent to both parties and an on-site mediation is scheduled to try and resolve the dispute. Some mediations are by phone, especially when the complaint is non-payment by a contractor to a subcontractor or material supplier or if the work was completed by another contractor so there isn’t anything
to see at the site.
At the on-site mediation, the mediator takes control and sets the ground rules. He or she will ask participants to remain calm and not interrupt each other. Many mediators start by asking questions with everyone in the same place at the same time. Once the mediator has a handle on the events that took place and the issues, they may separate the parties.
The mediator does not take sides and most things discussed during separate caucuses cannot be discussed with the other party. What the mediator is trying to determine is where the common ground is so they can settle.
The settlement can be as simple as what will get fixed or what amounts should be paid to which party. Remember that the mediator MUST have someone from both parties who is authorized to sign a legal settlement agreement or they will terminate the on-site meeting.
Homeowners are not required to allow a contractor to correct work but in some cases that is the best solution and it can be done if the homeowner agrees to it.
What if CCB can’t get a resolution during the on-site mediation or one party does not have an authorized representative at the meeting?
In this case, the Complainant must file a court action for monetary damages with the proper jurisdiction. Most small claim courts have a $10,000 limit and you will represent yourself rather than use an attorney. If the claim is for more than the small claim limit, you will need to hire an attorney when the Claimant files in court and things are very likely to get very expensive.
The main points here are that as a contractor, you are the professional and you need to manage your customer and their expectations. Doing this is usually fairly easy when you communicate and reduce expectations to writing so the “he said, she said” scenario doesn’t cloud what was expected and what was intended. Also, remember that you need to evaluate the customer and make sure when you sign an agreement you will be able to work with them and not get into disputes.
Who can legally flip houses for profit?
Contractors should be aware that with the current housing market as hot as it is, there is a significant increase in house flipping. Contractors should know about the specific rules that apply to house flipping for profit.
Not all unlicensed flipping is legal in Oregon.
An individual can flip houses within strict guidelines and limits but when it is in pursuit of a business, the flipper must be licensed. If a business entity purchases the property with the intent to resell it and not occupy the property as a primary residence, they need either a developer’s license or a general contractor’s license.
So, why is this important to the licensed contractor? While the flipper may be fined for working without a license, contractors can also be fined for assisting an unlicensed contractor. Thus, the circumstances of the renovations matter.
Licensing flippers protects the buyer from faulty workmanship. Often an inexperienced person or entity may cut corners in the interest of maximizing profits and the unsuspecting buyer may not discover deficiencies prior to closing the sale. To file a CCB complaint against the person, the buyer must have a direct contractual relationship with the licensed contractor. If the flipper/seller of the property is not licensed, CCB cannot accept the claim for damages.
Similarly, if a licensed contractor doesn’t get paid for work, the contractor can’t file a claim for damages against an unlicensed flipper. We can fine unlicensed flippers but that does not help the damaged party recover any damages from faulty workmanship.
Spotting an unlicensed business can be a challenge. The name of the property owner can be a tip-off. If the owner is something like ABC Properties, it is very likely that this is an entity that must be licensed. If you are preparing an estimate on a recently sold house, ask some simple questions.
If it appears the property is being flipped by a business, let CCB know and protect yourself by asking the flipper if they are licensed. It is not CCB’s goal to sanction contractors that unknowingly work for unlicensed contractors so if you suspect this type of unlicensed activity is taking place on a property, let us know about it.
Also, any time you see an unlicensed contractor actually working on a job site, let us know about them. We investigate all complaints and our investigators visit active job sites when we believe there is unlicensed activity.
Auditing commercial contractors for CE
The Construction Contractors Board audits commercial contractors for compliance with continuing education (CE) requirements. These are questions we get:
Who is selected?
The CCB randomly selects a list of contractors who renewed their licenses the prior month.
What is an audit?
The CCB asks you to submit proof that you completed continuing education for your recent license renewal or that you tell us how you are exempt. Generally, contractors are exempt because they hold another state license that requires CE. The audit letter will list the possible exemptions. We will verify that other state license number.
What will you be looking for in the audit?
We will check to see that you took the correct number of hours of relevant courses during the two-year period prior to your recent CCB license renewal.
How many hours are required?
That depends on whether you are endorsed as a Level 1 or Level 2 commercial contractor. Here are the requirements.
- Level 2 commercial contractor: 32 hours taken by key employees.
- Level 1 commercial contractor: Between 16 and 80 hours, depending on how many key employees you had when you renewed your license just over two years ago.
Who are key employees?
Key employees are supervisory staff such as corporate officers, managers, superintendents, the foreperson or lead worker, or any other employee who supervises construction. More than one key employee can take CE.
What proof is acceptable?
Course completion certificates, transcripts, and records of in-house training outlining which key employees took the training, how long it lasted, and so on. We will accept other types of proof, as well. Questions? Call us at 503-934-2227.
What time period are we talking about?
Courses taken in the two years prior to your recent license renewal are valid. In other words, send proof of the classes you took to recently renew your license.
What are relevant classes?
Any class covering construction means and methods or business practices counts. The CCB does not need to pre-approve the education providers or the classes. You determine the value of any particular course to your business.
How do I prove I took classes?
Commercial contractors can take courses about construction methods or business practices. These can be from colleges and universities, trade associations and trade schools, business associations, professional societies, private companies, and public agencies. In-house training also counts.
Examples of documents that prove education include:
Course completion certificates showing the date of the course, the name of the course, who gave the course, and the length of the course
Company training records showing the dates of any in-house training, the length of the training, the content of the training and the number of key employees who attended
Multiple key employees may complete training. Example: Three supervisory workers attend the same five-hour safety training. That counts as 15 hours’ worth of continuing education.
Painting contractor survives, thrives in first year
Our fourth and final visit with Tylor Stone, a first-year contractor
As he closes out his first year as a painter in business for himself, Tylor Stone is making triple what he earned as an employee, owns his own truck, has added technique and speed to his painting and is connecting with the contractor community.
The 25-year-old is booked out more than a month. He says he has accomplished more than he expected.
For that, he gives a lot of credit to his mentor, fellow Corvallis area painter Travis Wagar, and to his wife, Joelle. Joelle helps Tylor with accounting and billing, not to mention emotional support.
Travis helped Tylor with bids, sent business his way, loaned him money during the darkest month of winter and generally coached him in the art of business ownership. Tylor calls him a “more experienced, philanthropic contractor who wanted to help me become something I didn’t know how to be.”
Of course, neither Travis nor Joelle can help with the weather. So, in mid-June, Tylor tries to figure out how to satisfy a client who is
anxious to finish an exterior paint job while the forecast calls for a 40 percent chance of rain. Tylor needs dry weather, so he waits it out but reports in daily to the client. He quotes Travis: “All that a reasonable person needs is reassurance.
”Here are a few of the themes that emerge from the first year of contracting.
Tylor emphasizes the importance of developing relationships with contractors in other trades. This produces referrals. But the “meat
and potatoes of the industry” is hooking up with general contractors that view him as part of a team. Ideally, that means “I’m the only contractor of my trade that they call.”
“It’s the closest feeling to security that I ever get,” he says.
He used to think the key to success was being in the right place at the right time and knowing the right people. Now, he realizes, “it’s far more about the personality and the values of the subcontractor and the primary contractor lining up.”
“It’s like dating in high school...you need to like talking to the person on the phone,” he says.
In addition to generating regular business, “When you’re working with somebody consistently, they know what you’re bringing to the table.”
Communication: Diplomacy counts
Tylor says his ability to network is linked to “how well I communicate and how friendly I am in my relationship with other contractors.”
“In a year of business, I have heard about a lot of parting of ways between a primary and subcontractor,” Tylor said. “Every single time, it is a personality conflict or a communication issue.”
In communicating with clients, he takes a stronger lead these days in shepherding people through the process. A year ago, it took time to get into the mindset of owning a business and providing strong direction.
Tylor has a written contract for every job, not a “crazy, fine-print, four-page thing” but a simple estimate outlining the price and his services with room for a signature.
Having a contract “really has saved days and days and days of time…hours and hours, or even lawsuits,” he said. “Issues inevitably pop up. They just will. And when you have a written contract in place, it removes those issues from even ever existing.”
He keeps a copy/paste list of potential contract provisions. The list grows with the jobs.
One provision that’s featured in every contract: “Any changes made to the details above will require me to rewrite this estimate.” So, later, when someone decides to have him paint the gutters after all, he can change the price.
There are lots of ways to paint. “It’s not so much about having the best method,” Tylor says. “It’s about being in a position to learn and continue to learn…”
He has developed a “really clean line” in painting and changed the way he does ceilings, from spraying to rolling. But, he says new contractors should experiment.
Stick with it and, “as you get better, your wages go up, your prices go up, you get more efficient naturally.”
He suggests starting out doing it right and then “do it right a little faster every time. “What used to take me eight hours now takes me four…
He looks for the “mean point” between quality and production and says “I want to get to a point where there is no faster or higher quality way of doing things.”
Issues in the industry
While the number of unlicensed contractors is a problem, Tylor views the bigger problem as bad business practices. “There’s a lot of guys who just haven’t had any kind of mentorship.”
Often, he hears from contractors who say, “Oh, yeah, I don’t write contracts, just verbal, because the guy who taught me to do it, he was just a hand-shake oldfashioned kind of guy.
Tylor’s response: “I’m an old-fashioned handshake kind of guy, but I also do contracts. It’s just better… You have no leverage in a situation where there’s just a verbal agreement.”
Tylor said he gets a lot of work off Craigslist because he has a CCB license number under his name, as required. “There’s a lot of high-end work that is just not available to you if you’re not in that situation…”
Some contractors become set in their ways, and defensive about change, Tylor added. What he learns from them is “Don’t do that.”
Joelle has enjoyed the freedom self-employment offers but hopes they get a bit more security. This means having “a few general contractors that you work with, that you build long-lasting relationships with.”
And, she brings up the importance of staying organized, managing time and documenting everything. “Don’t be afraid to have boundaries with clients and admit when you don’t know something and research it,” she says.
Tylor, who already offers to help newbies, hopes to mentor other contractors in the years to come. As to his own business?
“I look forward a year or two from now bidding totally differently because I found a better way to do it, making more per hour because I’m more valuable per hour, and having more work also because of that,” he adds.
“I’d love to have more software and digital resources…so I want to keep growing in those areas.
“Just basically, everything should be a continuum.”
As if the year didn’t offer enough firsts, Tylor will become a father soon. And, he and Joelle will soon leave their one-bedroom apartment for a place on his in-laws property. That means one of his upcoming paint jobs will be on his own place.
“This feels like a gigantic step up,” he says.
SCORE: Free, Confidential Mentoring for Small Business
Marilyn Scott, Portland chapter chair, SCORE
Do you own or operate a small business? If so, you may benefit from the professional business counseling and mentoring provided at no cost by SCORE.
Our members are all volunteers with varied business backgrounds. We meet with entrepreneurs and small business owners daily to help them with business plans, marketing, personnel issues, finance and budgeting and any topic related to running a business.
SCORE is a national organization with 300 chapters. For example, Oregon boasts active chapters in Portland, Salem, Eugene, Bend and Vancouver, WA. To find a local chapter, just Google SCORE and the name of the chapter you want.
The best way to get SCORE assistance is to go to the chapter’s website and request a mentor. You will soon be on your way to working with someone to start or grow your own small business!
SCORE members meet clients in offices, often located near the Chamber of Commerce or the Small Business Administration, or in coffee shops or similar public meeting places.
Portland SCORE maintains a Facebook page with tips for running a small business. Open Facebook and go to SCORE PDX for that page. The national SCORE website contains many free resources, including online webinars and articles, at www.SCORE.org. All SCORE chapters maintain active websites with contact information.