Florida Statute 455.228 states that home improvement contractors must be certified by the State as a General, Building, or Residential contractor. If you hire a contractor who is unlicensed, the penalties can include:
- The Department of Professional Regulations may issue a cease and desist order.
- The Department may also take you to Circuit Court and you can be given a $5,000 penalty for each offense, plus court cost.
- You are responsible for all work, not the contractor, if you obtain the permit for an unlicensed contractor.
According to a report done by CBS News, each year homeowners lose millions of dollars to unlicensed contractors. A few of the ways homeowner losses can occur:
- A contractor who doesn’t have worker’s compensation insurance and is injured on the job can sue a homeowner for medical bills for any injuries that happen on their property. Homeowner’s insurance doesn’t always cover all of the bills.
- If a contractor doesn’t finish the work or does a poor job, necessitating further repairs, the homeowner will have to pay for the work to be corrected or finished.
- The homeowner may be held liable for unpaid bills to suppliers, even if the contractor has already been paid for them.
For appliances or heating and cooling equipment:
- Voiding of factory warranties
- Unsafe or inefficient operation
- Shortened equipment life
- Frequent breakdowns
- Building code Infractions and penalties
- Property damage or theft
- Check with the local Better Business Bureau for the contractor’s history of complaints and resolutions.
- Ask for multiple references and check them.
- Ask for licenses, bonding, and insurance coverage. Call the licensing and bonding agencies and the insurance company to verify. Remember, just because a contractor says they are licensed, doesn’t mean they are.
- Get a detailed written estimate. If a contractor won’t provide one, it’s a red flag.
- Get more than one estimate. If one contractor is quite a bit lower than another for the same work, they may be unlicensed.
- Asks you to get the permit for him
- Requires a large down payment before beginning work
- Has no license number displayed prominently
- Only has an “Occupational License”
- Tells you your work doesn’t need a permit
- Won’t give you a written estimate or contract
- Cannot provide proof of general liability or workman’s compensation insurance
To read the entire story from CBS News, visit http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/10/12/earlyshow/contributors/susankoeppen/main6950069.shtml
For more information on Florida’s contractor laws, visit http://www.myfloridahouse.gov/FileStores/Web/Statutes/FS09/CH0455/Section_0455.228.HTM