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CONSUMER STORIES

 

We hear from consumers from all over the State of Florida who are victims of unlicensed persons in various professions. People hire unlicensed persons for various reasons. Some people tell us they were not aware the person they hired was unlicensed. Some didn't think to ask because they felt they were in a desperate situation or they just “trusted” the character.

 

A few didn't care at first because they thought they were being a “smart shopper" when they got a cheap price quote. Generally people just don’t realize the potential financial harm they put themselves, their families and often their homes in, when they hire unlicensed persons.  Occasionally they hear of people who were taken by an unscrupulous person, but they don’t think it could happen to them.

 

This section is dedicated to brief anecdotes from letters and complaints filed by consumers who shared their unfortunate experience with hiring an unlicensed and unscrupulous person.

Think it couldn't happen to you? Think again….

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1. The case of the faulty electrical work

2. The case of the roof repair con

3. The case of the unfinished house

4. The case of the second mortgage and the leaky roof

5. The case of the homeowner who filed her complaint too late.

6. The case of the not so handy "handyman"

7. The case of the seniors and the shuttered up shutter company

8. The case of the sorry home owner who had to pay twice

 

1. The case of the faulty electrical work

 

I am writing to inquire if your Agency prosecutes individual doing electrical work without a license? I live in a resident owned Mobile Home Park in Central Florida. It is common knowledge in the neighborhood that the President of the Board of Directors for the Association does work for individuals in the association. He does not have a license. This person added an addition on to the mobile home of our disabled son who resides on the grounds. My late husband hired this person to do this work because he was told by other residents that this person was a licensed electrical contractor who had done work for numerous residents in the Village.

 

Recently my son's mobile home caught on fire. The Fire Marshal indicated the fire was likely caused by faulty electrical wiring. Subsequently, I contacted the Department of Business and Professional Regulation and learned this person does NOT have the required license, so he could not obtain a permit to do this work which means no inspections were not done.

 

I learned from other residents that they always believed this person did have the required license when they hired him to do work for them.

 

My son lost everything in the fire, and yet this individual who did the wiring seems to be able to do illegal work and get away with it. Please investigate this unlicensed individual who is taking advantage of residents.

2. The case of the roof repair con

Recently, three men came to my door and told me they had been working in the neighborhood.  They said they saw something wrong with my roof and offered to look at it for me. I agreed to let them check out the roof.  They told me they found a leak, and that I needed vents sealed.  They also claimed they found wet rotted wood which was doing structural damage.  Although I had never seen signs of a leak before, this scared me. I’m an 87 year old widow living alone, and these men were slick and professional in their manner. I decided to let them “help me.” They went up on the roof and seemed to work. Later that day, they gave me a bill for $860. I wrote them a check for the amount. As they left, I felt like something was wrong. I called my bank just a few minutes after they left, and was told the check had already been cashed. The next day I went to the police station and learned from the “Senior Versus Crime” volunteer that I had been a victim of a scam. These men were known con artist who move around quickly and take advantage of the elderly. I learned there was no work done on my roof.

 

3. The case of the unfinished house

Two years ago a North Florida property owner contracted with a man who claimed to be experienced in home building. The project was to cost $75,000, which sounded very reasonable for a new home. It turned out he was not licensed, and the owner sought to act as her own contractor, using an “Owner Builder” permit  LINK?  Things started off well, and the man appeared to be an actual licensed contractor.  Subsequent the work stopped, the owner began to receive notices of non payment from suppliers and subcontractors, and this resulted in liens against the property.  The owner was left with an unfinished house and $45,000 bills from suppliers and subcontractors.  She filed a complaint with the department and this complaint was referred to the local state attorney.  The criminal court found the man guilty of unlicensed contracting and ordered him to pay restitution and serve time in jail.  However, the house remains unfinished and the likelihood of actually receiving the court-ordered restitution is dim.

 

4. The case of the second mortgage and the leaky roof

A few years ago, after the state experienced a series of hard hitting hurricanes, a widowed homeowner needed to replace the hurricane damage to her roof. Like many people at the time, this woman was desperate to get her home repaired. One company  canvassing her neighborhood presented letterhead and contracts with the name of a “contractor” and officer. She thought she could trust the salesman and the company. She contracted to have the roof replaced for $35,000, and took out a 2nd mortgage on her home to pay for the repairs. The company required $22,750 for a deposit, which is 65% of the contract price. The deposit check was cashed and no work was ever started. The homeowner then learned she was a victim of an unscrupulous and unlicensed person on the prowl in areas hard hit by the recent hurricanes, bilking homeowners who were desperate to find someone to repair their roof.   The homeowner was left with a roof that remained damaged, a home that was inhabitable, and a large debt to the bank that she has to repay.

 

5. The case of the homeowner who filed her complaint too late

Another woman on the west coast of Florida reported she paid $10,000 for roof replacement to an individual she thought was licensed. Seventeen months later the roof began to leak and he would not return to repair the roof. The homeowner finally hired a licensed contractor to fix the roof. It cost her nearly additional $20,000 to repair the damaged caused by the unlicensed contractor and to get her roof replaced. Although the case was referred to the local state attorney, they were not able to prosecute the unlicensed person criminally because the problem was reported after the statute of limitations expired on the contract.

6. The case of the not so handy "handyman"

One homeowner reported that he wanted to build a guest room addition and a screened porch on  his Central Florida home. He was introduced to a man by an acquaintance who had done maintenance work and “handyman projects” on the acquaintance’s home. The homeowner reported he was led to believe the man was a licensed contractor and qualified to perform the work.  He placed his trust in the man and paid nearly $60,000 in cash, including a $25,000 down payment. The work was never completed, the homeowner cannot prove how much he paid, and  has no money to hire anyone else to finish the job.

7. The case of the seniors and the shuttered up shutter company

In South Florida, after a series of  hurricanes, hurricane shutters were very much in demand.  Unscrupulous, unlicensed companies sprang up and took advantage of people’s fears.  One of these companies conned nearly 100 senior citizens, then quickly closed left town after receiving many deposits. The victims learned what had happened and joined forces to file a lawsuit.  The company and its owner were ordered to pay back more than $1.4 million dollars from the victims. Unfortunately, he disappeared and remains at large.

 

8. The case of the sorry homeowner who had to pay twice

A homeowner reported he made a big mistake when he thought he could save money by hiring an unlicensed contractor to remodel his house.  After paying nearly $130,000 he was left with an unfinished remodeling project, and liens from subcontractors and suppliers who were never paid for their services.  These liens mean the subcontractors and suppliers have rights to his property to collect their money.

We hope that you have found the above stories to be informative as to why you should hire licensed professionals to perform work that requires a Florida state license.

 

If you believe you have been a victim of unlicensed activity, you may want to file a complaint by filling out our Uniform Complaint Form, or by calling our Unlicensed Activity Hotline at 1-866-1440 or (850) 487-1395.

 

If you would like to share with others about your experience with an unlicensed individual or company, please send a brief synopsis of your story to our office email at ULA@dbpr.state.fl.us. Sharing your story allows others to be aware of the dangers of unlicensed activity and possibly avoid the same unfortunate outcome.

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