BALTIMORE — Home service apps make it easy to cross off your home to-do list, but depending on the chore, you may need someone with certain experience and a license.
In most cases, customers are expected to know this information, as well as providers, who could face charges if something goes wrong.
John Woods had seen the commercials for Takl, and decided to hire a Takl provider to mount his TV.
He chose the person based off their reviews and ratings and paid $160.
"Nice guy, awesome, great service, did a good job. He was by himself, so I even helped him lift the TV on the mount and it seemed secure," Woods said.
The provider completed the job on December 30, then last week, Woods woke up to his husband telling him he needed to see something downstairs.
"So I came down, and saw the TV lying on top of where the dogs sleep on their bed. And luckily, they were upstairs at the time with us because it fell directly onto their bed," said Woods.
The TV was smashed and several keepsakes on the mantle were broken.
Woods tried contacting Takl, and was initially told their guarantee only covers 24-48 hours after the chore is complete. He continued to push and asked to speak with someone over the phone.
"I had four different customer service reps jump in the app. From there it was escalated from email. I can't call a number, there's no one I can get to. They have to call you. When you call back the number, it says we don't support customer service calls at this time," said Woods.
The company agreed to refund the chore, and even offered a small settlement to take care of the damaged wall and TV, but Woods is unhappy with how Takl handled the complaint and was also surprised to learn about the lack of protections he thought he was getting by using the app.
WMAR-2 News Mallory Sofastaii contacted Takl for more information on how they vet their providers. A spokesperson sent the statement below:
The Takl platform connects background checked providers with customers who need help with small jobs and chores. While licensing requirements vary by state and local community, we make every effort to exclude services from our platform in jurisdictions where a license is required.
While mounting a TV doesn't require a Maryland Home Improvement Commission license, there are other tasks on the app that do, including caulking, drywall, gutter repair, even painting.
The MHIC said they're aware of Takl, but haven't received any home improvement complaints. The agency's director of communications sent the statement below:
The MHIC would usually issue a warning letter along with instructions on how to become a MHIC licensed contractor for a first violation of advertising without a license. If the contractor has a complaint history with MHIC or there is a homeowner that has been victimized, the unlicensed contractor may receive a civil penalty or criminal charge.
Takl also provides a disclaimer that states "Takl is not responsible or liable for any services performed by Providers. Not responsible for spillage on painting jobs. Takl does not insure or provide insurance against any losses sustained by Customers or Providers."
The MHIC provides a Guaranty Fund where consumers can be compensated for any losses or damage caused by a licensed contractor, but the Fund does not cover work completed by an unlicensed contractor.
Some services are better at listing projects requiring a professional license than others. Angie's List provides a license check based on the project. Home Advisor also screens for state-level licenses. However, apps like TaskRabbit, Thumbtack, and Handy say they connect customers and providers. It's up to them to know the law. Links to their policies are below.
"Per our Terms of Service, TaskRabbit is a communications platform that connects Clients and Taskers. TaskRabbit does not offer licensed professional services."
Providers can add their professional licenses to their profiles, but unlicensed contractors are also permitted to provide services through the website. Thumbtrack provides information to consumers to find licensed professionals in their state.
"Since professionals on the Handy platform are all independent service providers, we can't guarantee that they're licensed in their field, and thus, they can't perform services that require a license."
If you want to see a full list of projects that require a licensed contractor in Maryland, click here.
And to search for licensed contractors by name, location, or trade name, click here.