TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Today marks the beginning of the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season, and the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) is reminding consumers, businesses and professionals to protect themselves following the event of a natural disaster by hiring licensed professionals to perform repair services. There are numerous risks Floridians face during the hurricane season that increase the potential danger for unlicensed activity scams and threaten the livelihood of consumers.
“Hurricane season is a time when the state of Florida has a greater risk for storm-related damage to homes and businesses,” said DBPR Secretary Ken Lawson. “Verifying the state-issued license of a professional with DBPR is one of the best ways for consumers to protect their safety and financial wellbeing after a natural disaster hits. With the right knowledge of what to do following a hurricane, Floridians can prevent a natural disaster from turning into a financial disaster.”
There is often an influx of unlicensed contracting activity during hurricane season. Unlicensed activity occurs when an individual who is not licensed by the state provides or offers to provide services that require a license in the state of Florida. There are instances where contractors may travel from out of state to areas affected by natural disasters to take advantage of the extensive repair work. DBPR reminds Florida consumers that licensed contractors in another state are still required to obtain a state license from DBPR to perform construction services on a Florida home or business.
During a natural disaster, DBPR may dispatch groups to organize door-to-door sweeps in conjunction with law enforcement, building departments and other state agencies. Consumers should report suspected unlicensed activity to DBPR by calling the Unlicensed Activity Hotline at (866) 532-1440 or by emailing ULA@myfloridalicense.com. Unlicensed activity is illegal and during a state of emergency declared by executive order of the Governor, the penalty for unlicensed activity raises from a misdemeanor offense to a third-degree felony.
DBPR reminds consumers to be knowledgeable of the common storm-related construction services that require state licensure in an effort to prevent unlicensed activity scams. Roof repairs, roof installations, plumbing repairs, window installations, electrical repairs and rewiring all require a state license with DBPR. However, trimming or removal of fallen trees, removal of debris or placement of tarps on roofs do not require a state license.
In the event of services requiring state licensure being needed following a storm, DBPR urges consumers to always verify the license prior to hiring or signing a contract. Consumers may verify a license by visiting www.myfloridalicense.com, calling (850) 487-1395 or downloading the free DBPR Mobile app available in the iTunes and Google Play app stores.