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Margaret is a seventy-seven year old woman who lives on her own. Her daughter checks in on her several times a week, but Margaret still handles most of her own affairs. One day, she notices a drip coming from the ceiling in her living room. Margaret goes upstairs to the bathroom on the second floor and realizes there is something wrong with the shower faucet – she determines it must be causing the leak.
Margaret hasn’t lived in this area long, so she doesn’t know any local plumbers. She remembers her neighbor had some issue last year with her toilet so she gives her a call. The neighbor, Patty, says she had a clogged toilet so she had her nephew, who is not a plumber but a great handyman, come fix it. She recommends Margaret call him and says she’ll get a good price as a friend.
(To be continued at the end of the article)
The Importance of a Plumbing License
Unbothered by the story of Margaret? Here’s why you should be super, super bothered. There’s already a huge red flag – she is about to hire a plumber without a license. Before we finish the tale, we want to explain why exactly it’s so important to hire a plumber with the proper credentials. Even if the unlicensed hack has no malicious intent, it can still lead to problems if their work isn’t done properly, fails later on, or if they don’t charge a typical price.
What is a Plumbing License?
It varies by location, but most plumbers are required to have a state license. In most cases, a plumber is first an apprentice, then a journeyman, then a master. Any professional plumber will be able to verify their qualifications, and won’t be offended at all by a customer asking to see them. A few states do not require plumbing licenses, but may require a contractor’s license or other documentation in some local governments.
What’s the Big Deal?
We get it, plumbing work can be expensive. If someone seems to know what they’re doing, it may be frustrating to feel like you have to jump through hoops just to get the job done. Trust us – it’s always worth it to hire a professional. If you don’t believe us now, you will after the first time you have to pay for a real plumber to fix the problem that wasn’t resolved the first time around. Below are a few of the ways that hiring a hack can go awry.
Skill Level: Zero
A plumber who has gone through years of schooling and hands-on work will know what they are doing. Someone who has picked up bits and pieces of the trade here and there is bound to know less by default. The problem with shoddy work is that it will often result in having to pay twice – if someone isn’t professional, they’re less likely to reimburse you for a bad job because they aren’t bound by anyone to do so. In this case, like Margaret in the story above, you may end up paying twice for a job.
An unlicensed plumber is not likely to have insurance. Insurance is necessary because it protects both customer and worker. If the person hired is injured on the job, and they don’t have insurance to cover their medical expenses, they may turn it into a lawsuit and seek compensation from the client. If something goes wrong with the plumbing work, there is no plumbing insurance to cover it and the home or business owner will have to deal with the expenses.
Where a license is required, it’s illegal to plumb without one. If someone is caught plumbing without a license, they will likely be fined. It’s not recommended to hire a friend illegally, even if it’s done to be helpful, because things can go south fast and you might lose a friend in the process. Plus, if you knowingly hire an unlicensed plumber, you may be in some trouble yourself.
Plumbers protect the health of the nation. They are trained to run things properly, and their expertise is important. Without the proper knowledge, an unlicensed plumber won’t know if they are doing something that is harmful to the health of others. Plumbing involves the water we drink and sewage, so it’s crucial that the systems in place are professionally handled.
Respect for the Trade
At SUPPLY.com, we’re big on respecting plumbers, or anyone in the trades. These workers are necessary for our society, and are often not appreciated the way they should be. We don’t need to take plumbers for granted, and by selling their work elsewhere we lessen the value of the trade as a whole. Pay a plumber who has put in the time to become an expert, and remember the importance of their job.
And (now that you know what a bad situation Margaret is getting herself into) back to the story…
Margaret calls Elliot, the nephew, to come out and take a look. He says he’ll need to take out the tile to inspect, fix the leak if that’s the problem, and probably go ahead and install a new showerhead. He says the whole thing typically costs around $12,000, but he’ll give Margaret the family and friends discount for $10,000. Margaret has always had a lot of respect for people willing to do physical labor, and she doesn’t want to come across as a nagging old woman and complain about the price, though it does sound much higher than she expected. She’s thankful for the discount and agrees to pay.
He’s there for a couple of days – he lets Margaret know that it was in fact a leak from the shower and he was able to fix it. She pays Elliot, thanks him, and he leaves.
A few days later, Margaret is walking around barefoot and notices the carpet is wet underneath her feet. She looks up, and, to her dismay, the ceiling is once again leaking. She immediately calls Elliot, but he doesn’t answer. She calls her daughter, Sarah, to come over and see if she thinks the ceiling is still dripping from the shower.
Sarah comes over, and when she tries to turn on the shower it doesn’t work properly. She’s growing nervous about Elliot, afraid that he may have taken advantage of her mother. She calls him from her phone and he answers, but as soon as she says who she is he hangs up. Now both Margaret and Sarah are very worried that Margaret has been scammed. They go to see Patty, the neighbor, but Patty says she trusts Elliot and doesn’t want to meddle in his work affairs.
Margaret is left with the option to try and take legal action against Elliot, but without any formal documentation that he worked for her she’s unsure of the best way to proceed. In the meantime, she has to call another plumber – this time from one of the big plumbing companies in town – to take a look at the issue and has to pay for their services. Sarah is left angry that her mother is devastated and spent so much of her retirement money – which she was planning to save for her grandchildren – on this thief.
Learn your lesson from Margaret! Make sure to hire a licensed plumber next time you need work done.
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