Protecting Yourself from Unlicensed Contractors | Bonita Springs Remodeling
Want to take on a Bonita Springs remodeling project? If so, be careful – the contractor you hire may not be the contractor you thought they were.
One of the unfortunate by-products of the current construction boom is that some people will choose contractors based solely on price. They’ll go with the ones who will take on a project for a very low, below-market price, or will take all cash – only to find out that their contractor doesn’t have a licensed or insurance!
This is a common problem because it’s tempting to go with the lowest cost when hiring a contractor or sub-contractor to carry out a project. But you really do get what you pay for, and in the case of unlicensed workers, you’ll get more than you bargained for.
What the Law Says
In the state of Florida, general contractors, plumbers, electricians, pool contractors, AC contractors, and other specialists are required to be properly licensed.
A contractor must have a legal and valid license in order to do work. The license looks like this:
Always ask for the license and take note of the license number. This number must be displayed on anything that the contractor uses to advertise for business, including business cards, vehicles, and advertisements. You can verify the license by contacting the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, either by phone at 239-338-2373 or through their website at www.myfloridalicense.com.
Some people may try to tell you that an occupational license, or a Local Business Tax Receipt, is the same as a contractor’s license. This isn’t true. A proper contractor’s license is required.
Also, a contractor should have general liability insurance, auto insurance, worker’s compensation, and property damage coverage. Ask for copies of insurance certificates, and make sure they’re current. Otherwise, you’ll be held liable for any injuries and damages that occur during the project.
Why Hiring Unlicensed Contractors Is Bad
There are many negative reasons why hiring an unlicensed contractor is bad.
For starters, if you knew that the contractor is unlicensed, you would be prevented from suing them for any breach of contract, since contracts entered into with an unlicensed contractor are unenforceable in Florida.
Also, hiring an unlicensed contractor, knowingly or not, would disqualify you from any potential recovery from the Florida Homeowners’ Construction Recovery Fund.
It could also cost you a lot of money and create legal problems including civil penalties. Many people don’t realize that under Florida Statute 455.228, the Department of Business & Professional Regulation may shut your project down and impose a civil penalty up to $5,000 for aiding and abetting unlicensed activity.
If your Bonita Springs remodeling project requires a permit and your contractor asks you to obtain it, that’s a red flag and could mean he’s not adequately licensed. It also makes you responsible for the work, not the contractor.
To further protect yourself, work with well-established contractors that have worked in the area for years and can provide good references. Then be sure to contact the references and anyone else you trust who may have had experience with the contractor.
Also, before signing a contract or providing a deposit, determine whether or not the contractor is adequately insured.
Completing a remodeling project is a big investment. Protect your investment, your home and your family by making sure you have verified the contractor’s information before you start work.