In the wake of Hurricane Irma, Florida has been left beaten and battered. Communities ravaged, homes destroyed and streets underwater. Across Florida, cities are beginning to repair and rebuild. Consumers need to be wary of a growing problem – unlicensed contractors.
In the state of Florida, contractors who perform home repairs must be licensed and insured. To contract without a license is a misdemeanor for the first offense, and a felony for any continued offenses. Even with these penalties, criminals and unlicensed contractors are crawling out of the woodwork looking for an easy way to make quick money, oftentimes defrauding individuals affected by the surrounding catastrophe.
Imagine a scenario: Your home has partial roof damage, and you’ve been calling around to local contractors to have it repaired. Most reputable contractors will more than likely have a waiting list and will be able to help you in a few days. A few hours later, you get a knock on your door. Like magic, this “contractor” had an opening on your street fall through, and they would be more than happy to help you right now! Filled with lofty promises and requiring payment upfront, they start the job but run out of supplies and will “be right back” to finish. In reality, they are never heard from again.
Unfortunately, this situation happens more often than we think. It’s easy to get impatient and frustrated about the speed of repairs. But working with an unlicensed contractor can create even more of a nightmare for consumers. These “repairs” can cost thousands of dollars. If the work is faulty, the cost grows exponentially to try and undo the damage and fix the original problem.
Consumers need to take action to protect themselves in this rebuild and repair stage.
Consumers can vet potential contractors for themselves at www.myfloridalicense.com. You want to make sure that the contractor you choose to work with has a valid and active license in their respective state or county. Contractors can be licensed with a particular county, with the State or with both. Consumers should report unlicensed contractors to their respective counties’ consumer protection agencies, Sherriff’s Offices and building departments. You can also request a Certificate of Insurance from a contractor to show that they are adequately insured as a contractor.
Besides vetting a potential contractor BEFORE work begins, consumers can also protect themselves by paying a contractor after work has been completed and consulting their insurance company about any potential claims. If a deal sounds too good to be true, most of the time it unfortunately is. Do your due diligence and make sure you’re working with a qualified and credible individual, even if it means waiting a few days before you can be serviced.
Consumers: we know you’re frustrated, but please exercise caution during this time. A quick fix now by an unlicensed contractor could lead to a lengthy and financially draining repair later.
The IHPA is a not-for-profit organization which unites and represents the Hurricane Protection Industry
We are comprised of suppliers, manufacturers, contractors, architects, engineers, testing laboratories, governmental agencies and code writers dedicated to the protection of life and property from the devastation associated with hurricanes.
We seek to insure the publics’ safety and welfare by endorsing the testing and approval of legitimate hurricane protection systems and through information and educational programs.