DBPR Sweeps Florida to Catch Unlicensed Contractors
October 31, 2008
TALLAHASSEE—Yesterday concluded the Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s first statewide sweep on unlicensed contractors. Investigators hit streets throughout Florida inspecting job sites and establishing road blocks to identify and stop unlicensed contractors. Responding to growing concerns from both the construction industry and general public, Secretary Charles W. Drago directed the Division of Regulation to increase efforts to protect consumers from financial and personal harm and safeguard the livelihood of licensed contractors, who are often underbid by unlicensed contractors. Investigators checked 468 people for their state licenses and stopped those who were out of compliance with state regulations.
The Department partnered with various agencies, including local law enforcement, code enforcement and building departments, throughout the state to protect Floridians. The Department’s Division of Regulation executed the statewide operation in: Tallahassee, Ft. Walton Beach, Jacksonville, Gainesville, Orlando, Tampa, Ft. Myers, West Palm Beach, Margate and Miami. Investigators issued 17 notices of non-compliance, 17 citations, and 27 notices to cease and desist. The sweeps included checking pool, electrical, roofing, and construction licenses and permits.
“I’d like to congratulate our investigators for successfully coordinating and executing this sweep. I have heard industry members and consumers asking for help, and these sweeps are one way of doing so. There will be many more of these to come. We want people who might be considering unlicensed activity to be aware of our intensified efforts,” said Secretary Drago.
During one sweep, investigators arrived at a dusty worksite with a number of people working on the roof of a home, work that requires a state license. The investigators asked workers a series of questions including: who they worked for, what they were doing, and whether they were licensed. The workers directed the investigators to the contractor on site. Investigators soon learned that this individual did not have a license, and as result, he was of issued a citation for unlicensed activity, with a fine of $2,500.
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 steps that consumers can take to help protect themselves from unlicensed contractors. When hiring a contractor, take these measures:
- Always ask to see the State of Florida 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 www.MyFloridaLicense.com.
- Ask for references and check each one.
- Beware of scams when individuals ask for all the money up front or will only accept cash.
- Never pay in cash, especially a large up-front deposit.
- 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.
- Do not 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 www.MyFloridaLicense.com.