The Arizona Registrar of Contractors (ROC) licenses and regulates residential and commercial contractors in the state, and the ROC complaint process has proven a powerful avenue for resolving a wide variety of construction disputes. Arizona law affords the ROC authority to hold licensed contractors accountable for numerous defined violations. See generally A.R.S. § 32-1154. Most often, ROC complaints arise from allegations of poor workmanship by licensed contractors – which is the focus of this article.
While the benefits the ROC complaint process affords property owners is self-evident and can result in serious adverse consequences for contractors, many contractors do not recognize that the process can prove equally beneficial to them if navigated properly. At a broader level, the ROC complaint process is mutually beneficial to both property owners and licensed contractors because it provides a more efficient, less formal, and substantially cheaper forum to resolve workmanship issues in lieu of civil litigation. But the process can also prove useful to contractors, in particular, in that it provides them an opportunity to be heard before individuals knowledgeable of workmanship standards and to correct the contractors’ work before further proceedings ensue.
The Complaint process begins with a property owner filing a complaint against the contractor with the ROC. The filing triggers an investigative process whereby the ROC will issue a jobsite inspection notice setting a date and time for a ROC investigator to inspect the complained of work. The complainant is required to be present at the jobsite inspection, and the contractor is strongly encouraged to attend as well.
It is important to note that licensed contractors must be allowed, upon request, the opportunity to conduct their own inspection of the work complained of within 15 days of receiving the job site inspection notice. The contractor is also encouraged, but not required, to submit an informal response to the complaint prior to the inspection. Licensed contractors can do themselves many favors by actively cooperating in this process from the outset, as it allows them to make the situation clear to the ROC investigator and indicate their good faith commitment to working toward a resolution.
While licensed contractors can (and often do) handle this part of the process without hiring an attorney, Galbut Beabeau’s construction attorney can provide licensed contractors essential assistance at the investigative stage, whether it be through general guidance, developing an informal response, and/or communicating with the relevant parties. We have provided guidance to licensed contractors at the investigative stage with great results, including dismissal of all claims after the jobsite inspection.
In the event the ROC investigator determines any complaint items were completed in an unworkmanlike or incomplete matter, the ROC inspector will issue a corrective work order directing the licensee to fix the problem(s), typically within 15 days from the date of issuance. The corrective order will be followed by a subsequent ROC inspection to ensure the problem(s) have been properly addressed. Otherwise, the property owner will be given the option of proceeding to an administrative hearing.
The administrative hearing is a more formal process – though less formal than typical civil litigation – whereby an administrative law judge (ALJ) will determine whether the evidence demonstrates that the contractor has violated one or more of the provisions of A.R.S. § 32-1154. There is no jury, and it is the property owner’s burden to show the ALJ through testimony, contracts, photographs, and/or other means that the complained-of work was not completed in a workmanlike manner. We strongly encourage contractors engage counsel at this stage, if not earlier, as an attorney can much more easily navigate these proceedings.
If the ALJ finds the minimum workmanship standards were violated, it may suspend the contractor’s license and the property owner can submit a claim for compensation through the ROC’s Residential Contractor Recovery Fund.
Our attorneys have substantial experience both supporting homeowners in the filing of ROC complaints and helping contractors respond to the same. Whether you need general guidance or active representation through all stages of the complaint process, please contact our construction attorneys: Grant Frazier ([email protected]) and Keith Galbut ([email protected]).