The Department of Business and Professional REgulation Marks New Year with 269 Compliance Sweeps and 20 Sting Operations to Fight Unlicensed Activity
December 31, 2008
TALLAHASSEE—The dust does not have time to settle before the Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s Division of Regulation staff moves from a construction site to a cosmetology salon to ensure compliance with state laws. Working throughout the state from ten regional offices, the Division of Regulation has executed 269 sweeps and 20 stings since the start of the fiscal year, which began on July 1, 2008. These mid-year results indicate that the division is on track to surpass its achievements of the prior year, during which time there were a total of 303 sweeps and 24 stings. A sweep consists of checking licenses to ensure compliance with state laws; a sting consists involves undercover operations where known or suspected unlicensed individuals are targeted. Both operations may result in the arrest of unlicensed persons.
“There is no better way to start the New Year than with these significant results that underscore our commitment to fight unlicensed activity. This is only the beginning, and I am proud of the hard work our Division of Regulation has put into protecting consumers and licensees. We have heard the pleas for help from consumers and our licensed businessmen and women, and we are responding,” stated Secretary Charles W. Drago.
Unlicensed activity threatens the financial and personal safety of consumers, as well as the livelihood of state-licensed professionals. Unlicensed individuals often underbid licensed professionals, but they do not carry workers’ compensation or liability insurance. Consumers can pay dearly with little recourse when working with unlicensed individuals.
Through enforcement and education efforts, the Department works to deter and eliminate this dangerous activity. Over the past six months, the Division of Regulation has partnered with local law enforcement, building departments, code enforcement departments, State Attorney’s offices, and the Florida Department of Financial Services’ Division of Workers’ Compensation to perform these operations.
Penalties for unlicensed activity can include a fine of up to $5,000 per incident. Persons engaging in unlicensed activity can be charged with a first degree misdemeanor for a first offense. In addition, any person who acts as an unlicensed contractor during a Governor-declared state of emergency commits a third degree felony.
There are measures consumers can take to protect themselves. Always check licenses by visiting MyFloridaLicense.com. Unlicensed activity should be reported to the department via the Web site or by calling, toll-free, 1-866-532-1440. When hiring a contractor, consumers should:
- Always ask to see the contractor’s license.
- Note the license number and verify that the license is current and in good standing. To check a license, call 850-487-1395 or visit MyFloridaLicense.com.
- Get a Release of Lien covering all workers and materials. This removes your property from the threat of lien.
- Ask any potential contractor for references and check each one.
- Beware of scams when contractors ask for all the money up front or will only accept cash.
- Beware of contractors who arrive in unmarked vehicles, possibly from out-of-state.
- Be cautious of writing checks made payable to individuals, especially when dealing with a company.
- Get everything in writing, including a detailed description of the work to be completed, a completion date and the total cost.
- Request from the contractor, via registered or certified mail, a list of all subcontractors and suppliers who have a contract with the contractor to provide services or materials.
- Don’t sign the certificate of completion until you are satisfied with the work done.
The department’s mission is to license efficiently and regulate fairly. The department licenses more than one million businesses and professionals ranging from real estate agents, veterinarians, and accountants to contractors and cosmetologists. For more information, please visit MyFloridaLicense.com.