NEW YORK CITY'S POLITICIANS put some clamps on home builders in August when Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed a new law that requires builders of one, two, and three-family homes to obtain a license from the city.

James Oddo, a Staten Island councilman who worked on the bill, said the need for the law grew out of complaints over shoddy construction during the building boom. Oddo says that many of the cases involved start-up companies with little experience, looking to make a “fast buck” while times were good.

Under the new law, a license will cost builders $200 with a biennial renewal fee of $160. It also requires proof of insurance of $1 million and for builders to offer six-year warranties.

Builders who fail to comply face a misdemeanor conviction and jail time of not more than six months, as well as civil fines of up to $10,000. Violators can also have their licenses suspended or revoked, and city police are authorized to seize vehicles and tools from a site that is operating without a license.

“While the bulk of contractors are responsible and comply with safety regulations and the building code, there are unfortunately some who do not build according to plans and engage in unsafe practices that put workers, the public, and adjacent properties at risk,” said Mayor Bloomberg the day he signed the law.

“Right now, we can't tell you the universe of builders in the city,” says Councilman Oddo.

“We think it's around 5,000, but we don't know if we're in the ballpark,” he says. Under the new law, the city will develop a database of general contractors.

The licensing law, which will be managed by the city's Department of Buildings, goes into effect Nov. 1, 2008. General contractor registration will begin April 1, 2008.

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