Scam Alert: The Importance of Hiring Licensed Contractors
Unsuspecting consumers can be easy prey for unlicensed contractors, whose bids almost invariably come in lower than bids from licensed contractors. The strong appeal of saving money can be overwhelming, which is why Orange County Division of Building Safety has a message for owners and consumers:
Orange County Building Safety experts say the cheapest bid available may be the one that costs you the most in the long run. There are a number of potential liability issues that come with using an unlicensed contractor, and it’s simply not worth it.
In preparation for hurricane season and during recovery from a storm, unlicensed activity and unpermitted work generally increase. Don’t fall victim to those that may try to take advantage of a bad situation. Orange County Government advises residents to be wary of unlicensed contractors and to ensure they have the correct permits as they rebuild after a storm.
If you hire an unlicensed contractor and an injury occurs while doing work at your business or house, you will likely sustain the liability. If you wish to sell the home in the future, unpermitted work discovered by a home inspector or title company may prevent your sale or cost you thousands in remediation. Unlicensed work also carries a substantial risk of failing to adhere to building codes, and your home may be more likely to sustain costly damage in the event of a storm or other disaster.
Additionally, most of the complaints Orange County receives about so-called “contractors” backing out of deals and taking the money and running are almost exclusively among business conducted with an unlicensed contractor.
Always ensure you have a contract and vet the business, including verifying the contractor license before providing funds. Never enter an agreement with just a handshake; always make sure to have a contract for the work being performed.
Other tips to keep in mind:
- Make sure the contract has the contractor’s license number on it and verify that license.
- To verify a contractor license, use these websites: myfloridalicense.com and FastTrack.ocfl.net
- Ensure the name on the license is valid and the license holder qualifies the company their contracting with.
- Call or email the local permitting authority to verify permitting requirements.
- If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.
Unpermitted work can cost property owners thousands of dollars. Whether the intentions are innocent or not, completing work without necessary building permits for repairs and renovations puts current owners, residents and future owners, at risk. Work completed without a permit may be subject to costly enforcement and fines on the property, not to mention having to have work redone.
In addition, homes with unpermitted work can be difficult to sell and unsafe for habitation. One of the most important things you can do as a property owner to protect your assets is to ensure all work is performed by a licensed contractor and all work that requires a permit gets the correct legal permit.
To verify a state license, or to report unlicensed activity, please visit the Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation My Florida License webpage. You will see large yellow buttons to apply for or manage a license, verify a license, file a complaint and to report unlicensed activity.
For questions about permitting requirements and contractor licensing in Orange County, please call the Division of Building Safety at 407-836-5550 or by email at ContractorLicensing@ocfl.net.