By Rusty Bradshaw
With scams proliferating into the legitimate business environment, it is sometimes difficult for residents to find the best contractors for home work.
Sun Cities residents have agencies that can help them sift through the options and connect them with vetted business partners through vendor referral programs for each community. Programs at the Sun City Home Owners Association, 10401 W. Coggins Drive, and PORA of Sun City West, 13815 Camino del Sol, have been in place nearly from the inception of both age-restricted communities, and each is operated similarly — although there are some differences.
But the goal of each is the same — to provide options and protect residents from scams.
“This has really provided a great service to residents,” said Kim Miller, PORA of Sun City West executive director.
Having vetted vendors to choose from is one of the tools in battling scams, according to Carole Studdard, SCHOA executive director.
“The program has great value for residents, particularly these days when there are far too many businesses attempting to take advantage of senior citizens,” she said.
However, both programs do have detractors. Mike Cusack of US Patios expressed concern to PORA officials about their practice of listing and referring companies in categories and for work for which they are not licensed.
“There are landscapers in the patio and buildings categories,” he said. “If they do it (a job) wrong, there would be no opportunity for resolution.”
His concern goes beyond his interest as a business owner.
“My grandmother lives in Sun City West and they (residents) expect PORA to check them (vendors) out,” Mr. Cusack said.
Sun City resident Bill Pearson Attended the October SCHOA meeting and urged HOA officials to act on a complaint he registered against a vendor he believes did unsatisfactory work. There was no action against the vendor and Mr. Pearson returned to the SCHOA board’s Nov. 28 meeting claiming HOA officials created a policy after his complaint to protect the vendor.
In both cases SCHOA and PORA officials believe residents looking for vendors drive their own choices. Both vendor referral programs include licensed and unlicensed contractor.
“While we might encourage a resident to select a licensed contractor, to enhance their ability for recourse if it does not go as hoped, we cannot force them to do that,” Ms. Miller explained. “If they want an unlicensed vendor, those vendors are the option we give them.”
The same is true with SCHOA, according to Ms. Studdard.
PORA officials will remove a vendor from the program if three complaints against that vendor are received. SCHOA’s original approach was to remove a vendor after one complaint. But the procedure was changed to two unresolved complaints. SCHOA officials would not confirm to Mr. Pearson or the Independent when that change was made. Mr. Pearson has a document that indicates the new policy was written in October this year (see letter on page 8).
Although they have their differences with the agencies, both Mr. Cusack and Mr. Pearson believe the organizations and their vendor referral programs are good for residents.
“I like PORA, they are good for the community,” Mr. Cusack said.
Mr. Pearson said he renewed his SCHOA membership despite his current disagreement with the board.
“The $20 yearly fee is a bargain, and sadly, not enough Sun City homeowners bother to join,” he stated in a letter to the editor.
How they work
Vendors pay a fee to be involved in both organizations’ vendor referral programs. Vendors are then vetted by the respective agency officials.
PORA officials require five references be provided by the vendor, and these are throughly checked, according to Ms. Miller. SCHOA officials require a minimum of three references and all are called to confirm, Ms. Studdard explained. Both agencies also check with the Arizona Registrar of Contractors to confirm active licenses for those contractors who claim to be licensed.
“These are checked daily,” Ms. Miller said. “If a license is inactive, the vendor is suspended from the program until the license is reactivated.”
ROC representatives also visit the SCHOA and PORA offices regularly to check that all licensed vendors list their license numbers and all other pertinent information on business cards and other materials.
If a complaint is received by either agency, officials serve as a mediator between the customer and vendor to try to find a resolution. If the complaint is not resolved in mediation, the matter can be taken to the respective boards.
“I don’t know that we’ve ever had three complaints against one vendor,” said Rob Robbins, PORA board president.
Ms. Studdard said SCHOA receives very few complaints against vendors in its program.
Generally, vendors come to SCHOA and PORA to apply for the program. Neither agency actively recruits vendors.
PORA has more than 700 vendors in its program, Mr. Robbins said, and SCHOA has more than 400, according to Ms. Studdard.“Our program is larger than it ever has been,” she said.
Both agencies have a collection of vendor business cards for walk-in customers. They each also list their member vendors on their respective websites — SCHOA’s for members only and PORA public for now, according to Mr. Robbins.