A reader: I rent out one of the bedrooms in my home. Recently, my tenant move out and I wanted to change the locks on my house. I’ve never felt like I needed to do this before. Do I need a contractor or a locksmith?
Action Line: If the price quoted to change the locks on your doors for labor and materials is over $500, you will need a licensed contractor. If it is less than $500, you can call on a locksmith.
In California, locksmiths are licensed by the California Bureau of Security & Investigative Services (BSIS). BSIS considers a locksmith to be someone that “installs, repairs, opens or modifies locks or that originates keys for locks.” BSIS also states on its website that an individual, partnership, or corporation seeking a license as a locksmith must specify in the application the individual who will manage the business on a day-to-day basis. (An owner, partner, or corporate officer may serve as the manager, or may hire someone to fill this role.)
“In order to obtain the company license, each individual applicant, partner, or corporate officer must undergo a criminal history background check through the California Department of Justice (DOJ) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to be evaluated on an individual basis,” according to the state. Licensing requires a background check, fingerprinting, and a fictitious name statement for the business. For an employee, background check and fingerprinting are required. In both cases, there are also fees involved.
A contractor must be licensed by the Contractors State License Board (CSLB). Contractors must take an exam. Fingerprinting and background checks are also required.
Whether you hire a locksmith or a contractor, check their licensing. Anyone that is licensed will have to pass a background check. Then go to bbb.org and check to see if there have been any complaints or customer reviews posted. You are considering letting someone into your home to change the locks on your doors for security purposes. Here are some tips to help you choose the right company for you:
▪ Shop locally. If there is a problem it is much easier to deal with a local company than someone far away.
▪ Get comparative pricing
▪ Ask for identification and business card. Make sure the information on the business card matches the company name on the invoice or estimate.
▪ Make sure you get a written estimate. Don’t hand over your credit card unless you are satisfied with the estimate and that it includes the scope of work to be done and the pricing.
▪ Look for proof of insurance. Ask to see their license and/or registration.
▪ Make sure you read and understand anything before you sign it.
▪ Before you pay, get a written invoice that shows the company name and lists labor, replacement parts and all fees you’re being charged.
▪ If the service was good, save the contact information so that you can call on them again.
Action Line is written by Blair Looney, president and CEO for the Better Business Bureau serving Central California. Send your consumer concerns, questions and problems to Action Line at the Better Business Bureau, 2600 W. Shaw Lane, Fresno, CA 93711 or firstname.lastname@example.org.