The crash of the Zeppelin led to the infamous quote; “oh the horror”. That’s how we feel when we watch an unsuspecting consumer attempt to conduct business with an unlicensed contractor. Please take a minute and learn a few of the advantages of using a licensed contractor and, conversely, the dangers or using an unlicensed contractor for your next construction project…
In the State of Florida, if you pay someone to construct a building or a structure, make structural alterations to load bearing walls, or perform services such as plumbing, air conditioning work, electrical and/or alarm work, then that person/ company must have a state contractors’ license. You need to understand how and why the state licensure requirements protect you and your property from the dangers inherent with unlicensed contractors.
In Florida, it is ILLEGAL to perform the aforementioned construction services for compensation without a license. There are so many other reasons why you should NEVER work with an unlicensed contractor but I need to keep your attention so this article is intentionally brief. Unlike a state licensed contractor, an unlicensed contractor has made the deliberate choice to illegally conduct business without complying with licensure laws which require a bon a fide professional to:
- Demonstrate field experience that is supported by permit numbers and dates, along with contact information for their previous employers for further verification;
- Provide proof of financial wherewithal to conduct business as a contractor;
- Demonstrate a minimum credit score;
- Pass a criminal background screening;
- Pass a competency exam;
- Carry adequate General Liability insurance;
- Carry Worker’s Compensation or a valid Certificate of Election to be Exempt (they are valid for a period of 2 years) from the Florida Department of Financial Services, Division of Worker’s Compensation;
- If necessary, obtain the required license from the local construction licensing board, ie Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board pcclb.com;
- Complete the required continuing education in several categories every two (2) years to ensure current knowledge of laws affecting the construction industry and changes in the building code.
- An unlicensed contractor is unable to pull a permit so the work will not be inspected;
- An unlicensed contractor is more likely to take your money and run, known as a “hit and run”;
- Most unlicensed contractors do not carry insurance so the property owner is liable if anyone is injured on the job;
- An unlicensed contractor could potentially violate your homeowner’s policy as most policies provide no coverage for work completed by an unlicensed contractor;
- An unlicensed contractor will cause the homeowner to be ineligible to qualify to obtain funds from the Florida Homeowner’s Construction Recovery Fund if the unlicensed contractor has caused monetary damages by financial mismanagement or misconduct (refer to Florida Statute 489).
How can you verify if your contractor is licensed other than taking their word for it?
A good place to start is with the local construction licensing board’s webpage. In Pinellas County the agency is the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board (PCCLB), www.pcclb.com . You can conduct a search for any complaints or actions taken against the licensee as well. If you are unable to locate your contractor with the local licensing board then that does not automatically mean that they are an unlicensed contractor. It does mean that you need to check the state’s webpage. When searching for a state license you need to visit the Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s (DBPR) webpage, www.myflorida.com. Again, you can conduct a license search there and you are able to conduct a search for any complaints or actions taken against the licensee at the state level. If they have a state license but no local license then it is a simple process of registering with the local board and they issue the license immediately. If you cannot locate the name of the licensee that you are searching for and they will not provide a copy of their license then you need to protect yourself and your property and find a licensed contractor.
Please spend some additional time searching the internet for the horror stories of working with an unlicensed contractor. If after you have read this article and spent twenty minutes on Google and you still don’t want to hire a licensed professional then I will leave you with this aphorism that was coined by a genuine man’s man, Red Adair; “If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional, wait until you hire an amateur.”