Correction: A previous version of this report quoted the homeowner as saying the contractor, Bradford Suarse, is uninsured. Suarse provided documentation of general liability insurance, and the insurance company confirmed the policy is active. Because Suarse is unregistered with the state, the R.I. Contractors’ Registration and Licensing Board cannot confirm the insurance meets statutory requirements.
WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — With stars and stripes as an inspiration, Lynda Golditch designed her young son’s new bedroom.
She hired a painter to complete a red, white and blue mural, but when the work did not meet her standards and the painter walked off the job, Golditch filed a complaint with the Rhode Island Contractors’ Registration and Licensing Board.
An inspector agreed the work “needs corrective measures.”
During its investigation, the contractors’ board also discovered the painter, Bradford Suarse of Spectrum Painting, isn’t registered with the state Contractors’ Registration and Licensing Board , which means he was painting illegally.
Suarse did not show up for his hearing and the board fined him $2,250 dollars for a stack of violations.
“I don’t get a dime of it,” Golditch said.
According to a final order issued in June, the money is to be paid to the state.
“I’m just so aggravated,” Golditch said. “I thought they were supposed to work for the consumer.”
Another contractor estimated it would cost $800 to repair Suarse’s work.
“He’s not supposed to be painting. He’s not registered,” Golditch said.
The contractors’ board used to award judgments to homeowners if contractors failed to show up at hearings, but according to Julietta Georgakis, the deputy director of the Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation, the judgments gave homeowners false hope of being made whole.
“We found that it was an inefficient and ineffective process,” Georgakis said.
“Someone who is unregistered, who doesn’t care about working legally in the state, is not willingly opening up their wallet to give money back to a homeowner,” Georgakis added. “The homeowner thinks at some point the contractors’ board has the authority to reach into the contractor’s wallet and give them back money and unfortunately we don’t.”
As a result, the board recently overhauled its claims process.
There is a new four-month time limit on mediation, and now, the board will no longer award default orders to homeowners. Instead, they are focusing on fines.
But Georgakis said the contractors’ board can – and will – revise final orders to ensure consumers are compensated.
“I can promise you this; Before any money goes into a general fund in a final order, homeowners will be made as whole as possible,” Georgakis said. “There are situations where we can only levy fines up to $500, and they may owe $50,000 to the homeowner, but that’s better suited for court to begin with.”
When reached by phone, Suarse told Call 12 for Action the fines he is facing are “totally unfair,” and vowed to fight them. He also said he believes he should not have to register with the contractors’ board.
“I’ve been painting for 11 years,” Suarse said. “This is the first time I’ve ever had a complaint.”
The contractors’ board fields about 300 complaints annually.