Florida construction professionals are regulated in different ways, depending on their specialty. But almost all need some kind of license. So you need to know who is required to carry what kind of credentials.
These are among the contractors required to have a state certificate or be registered with the state: general, building, mechanical, electrical, alarm system, sheet metal, roofing, plumbing and air conditioning. State licensed professionals must put their license number on their advertising, including ads on any vehicles they use to perform work. They also must carry general liability, property damage and workers compensation insurance.
Using unlicensed construction professionals means you could be liable if workers are injured on your property, and will have less recourse if something goes wrong with your job.
“Certified” state professionals can work in any county. Contractors who have “registered” a certificate of competency with the state can only work in the county where they obtained that certificate. To check a state license: Go to myfloridalicense.com and click on “verify a license.” Or call 850-487-1395.
Some other construction professionals, such as drywall installers and carpenters, are required to have a county but not a state license. Insurance requirements and rules regarding the display of a license number vary from county to county.
To find out if a contractor has a county license and to ask about county regulations: In Broward County, go to broward.org/permittingandlicensing or call 954-765-4400, option 2. In Palm Beach County, go to pbcgov.com/pzb/Contractors/index.htm or call 561-233-5000.
When hiring a contractor
Anyone claiming to be a licensed “handyman” is not telling the truth; there is no such license. So if they are doing carpentry or plumbing or similar repair tasks on your home without a county or state license for those trades, they are doing unlicensed work.
Obtain estimates from at least three contractors. They should specify such items as the quality and type of materials to be used and how long it will take to complete the work.
Don’t choose a contractor based on price alone. Ask for references and how long a contractor has been in business. Check out work the contractor has done for others.
If using a small, independent contractor, request to see a professional license and a driver’s license. The names should be the same.
Check if your contractor has any unresolved complaints, and if his or her license has ever been revoked or suspended. To check if a construction company is incorporated with the state and for how long, go to: sunbiz.org. Check the Better Business Bureau’s website for any complaints filed against the company: bbb.org.
Get any proposal, contract or agreement in writing. And be aware if your contractor fails to pay his suppliers or subcontractors, you may be liable. To prevent this, get a written “release lien” from the contractor before making a lump sum or final payment for any work.
If a large down payment is requested before the work begins, you might be at risk. Only partial payments should be made until work is completed. Many requests for money are made during early phases of construction.
If you are asked to pay in cash or make your check payable to an individual or “cash” instead of a company name, you may be dealing with a fraudulent operator.
If you are told the job does not require a building permit, check with your local building department before proceeding. Almost all projects and repairs require permits.
If the contractor is willing only to work on weekends and evenings, it may be a sign the person is an employee who is moonlighting without a license.
Be wary if someone other than the person or company contracting to do the construction work obtains the building permit or you asked to obtain the building permit. If you do so, you will be responsible for complying with the Florida Building Code and for workers injured on the job.
If you have problems with a local contractor, you may file a complaint with your local police department.
To file a complaint with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation about a state licensed, or an unlicensed, contractor: Go to http://www.myfloridalicense.com and click on “unlicensed activity” on the left. Or call 866-532-1440 from inside Florida, 850-487-1395 from outside Florida. Complaints also can be emailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
To file a complaint about a county licensed contractor: Call 954-765-4400, option 3 in Broward County and 561-712-6600 in Palm Beach County. You also can file complaints online against a Palm Beach County contractor at http://www.pbcgov.com/consumer.
The National Association of the Remodeling Industry provides information about hiring contractors and remodeling. Go to nari.org.