UNLICENSED ACTIVITY IN THE NEWS
As those affected by Hurricane Matthew return home, state insurance regulators are warning residents to be wary of scams and report suspicious business activity.
The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (FLOIR) is reminding residents to be “cautious of repair deals that sound too good to be true” and ask contractors and insurance professionals to show licensing and training credentials.
Florida was first to issue a statement specifically regarding fraud and predatory businesses seeking to profit from hurricane victims under financial and emotional stress.
Jacksonville restaurant shut down for unlicensed activity
A Jacksonville restaurant was shut down for unlicensed activity last week. Dora Elia, which is located at 13990 Bartram Park Blvd., was shut down by inspectors on Oct. 11 for not having a license with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.
PALMETTO, Fla. (WWSB) –An unlicensed contracting sting in Manatee County has led to the arrest of 11 felons including fraud plumbers and electrical workers. The arrested individuals are accused of performing jobs without proper licensing, training or worker’s compensation coverage to protect their employees.“When contractors knowingly neglect the law, a major liability risk is created for property owners,” said CFO Jeff Atwater. “Not only are homeowners liable for any injuries that occur to uncovered workers on their property, but sub-par work performed by unlicensed and untrained contractors also creates a direct hazard for the property.”
Palmetto, Fla. — The Department of Financial Services’ Division of Investigative and Forensic Services (DIFS) today announced 11 arrests following a multi-agency undercover workers’ compensation and unlicensed contracting sting in Manatee County.
The sun was finally shining when calls began pouring into A & R Roofing in Port Orange.It was Saturday and residents of Volusia County who hadn't evacuated were starting to poke their heads outside to see what Hurricane Matthew had done to their homes.
Many residents saw their roofs sustain damage whether it was that shingles had been blown off by Matthew's strong winds or that a tree came crashing down.
County Warns of Contractor Fraud.St. Johns County residents are urged to stay vigilant throughout the recovery process when hiring contractors to repair home or business damage due to Hurricane Matthew. For tips on how to protect yourself from contractor fraud, refer to the tips below or visit the State Attorney General’s site at bit.ly/2dZRQTL. To report fraud, call the State Attorney General’s Fraud Hotline at 1-866-966-7226.
Be wary of anyone who approaches you unsolicited or says they can perform your repairs at a discount.
When you're looking around at your fallen trees, broken fences and damaged roof after a storm and you don't know what to do next, the person who walks up and offers to help can seem like a lifesaver.That person could also take you for a lot of money, and leave you in worse shape than before.
The Volusia County Sheriff's Office is reminding everyone that the days and weeks following a hurricane create prime opportunities for scam artists to take advantage of people already hit hard by the storm. Some are driving through neighborhoods offering tree removal for prices several times what reputable companies would charge. A man claiming to be the "Hurricane Handy Man," Russell Bannister, 44, has several outstanding warrants for exploiting the elderly and grand theftafter taking more than $20,000 from five victims between May and June.
JACKSONVILLE- Damage caused by Hurricane Matthew has been devastating and overwhelming for many people in our area. This can bring out the best in people, as strangers reach out to help others in need. Unfortunately, the aftermath of a crisis also attracts scammers who take advantage of people who are desperate.Many people are left paying out hurricane deductibles and paying workers to removing fallen trees from their property. Tom Stephens from the Better Business Bureau says sometimes the best deal when it comes to your wallet, is not the best deal in the long run.
"You should be careful of people going door-to-door, offering their services at a super deal," said Stephens. "Often times those good deals turn out to be the worst possible deals because they don't finish the job."
Hurricane Matthew delivered levels of damage from downed trees tobattered roofs to flooded rooms.
But now who do you hire to fix it?
Orange County’s administrator for the Consumer Fraud Unit said it is all about the contractor’s license.
Before the storm was over, before the rain stopped or the wind died down, the calls came in to local roofers and tree services.
At Stonebridge Construction, crews started working by 6 p.m. Friday, said Danielle Ennis, office manager of the roofing and construction company.
“We had crews out on Saturday,” she said. “Sometimes we have to wait for the trees to get pulled out. But we at least try to get the roofs tarped until we can get back to them.”
Citizens Property Insurance Corp. was quick to warn policyholders against signing away their rights in exchange for quick repairs following Hurricane Matthew.Florida’s insurer of last resort issued a press release Sundayurging policyholders to call the company before entering into assignment of benefits contracts with contractors or other third parties.
“Here’s why,” Citizens said. “You may be signing away your rights and be left with unfinished repairs or forced to pay a contractor for repairs not covered by your policy. The policy may also place a limit on emergency repairs until Citizens is notified to inspect damage before permanent repairs are made.”
ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. —Has your home been damaged by Hurricane Matthew?If the answer is yes, you most likely need a contractor who is licensed and bonded.
After almost every significant storm, storm chasers turn up. They’re from out of state, and very often, are not properly licensed to work in Florida.
Citizens can visit Orange County’s website to check if a contractor is licensed. Homeowners around the nation face the same risks when searching for someone to do repair work or remodeling on their homes. Unsuspecting consumers can be easy prey for unlicensed contractors whose bids almost inevitably will be much lower than bids from licensed contractors. The strong appeal of saving money can be overwhelming, but buyers must beware. The cheapest contractor available may be the one who will cost the most in the long run.
“People don’t understand the risks and therefore don’t do the proper background checks on contractors, and they often end up regretting it,” said Carlos Morales, supervisor of the Orange County Consumer Fraud Office. “Having a license is critical because it protects both parties from anything that might go wrong during the process.”
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CFO) -- Following the landfall of Hurricane Matthew, many Floridians are now beginning the process of notifying their insurance carrier of damaged property and items and taking steps to make temporary repairs to prevent additional damage. CFO Jeff Atwater, Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier, and Insurance Consumer Advocate Sha’Ron James encourage Floridians to be prompt in notifying their insurance companies and cautious of repair deals that sound too good to be true.
Contractor/author Kia Ricchi shared these tips with real estate editor Harold Bubil on what to do after a house is damaged in a storm: Focus on stabilizing the home (tarps, plywood) and then taking time to do repairs properly. If you hire an incompetent contractor, the repairs may be worse than the damage! Hire someone who is state licensed/insured and make sure that the contractor pulls a permit. If the homeowner pulls the permit, the homeowner assumes liability because he is “stepping into the shoes” of the contractor.
Choosing a contractor: Be careful when hiring unknown contractors and be especially alert of door-to-door sales people who promise to speed up the permit process or ask for large cash deposits or advance payments in full. Hire contractors who are licensed by the state or county or both. Get the estimate and the contract in writing. Most homeowners' insurance won’t pay a claim from an unlicensed contractor who is injured on the job. In Volusia County, you can call the licensing contractor's office at 386-736-5957 and choose option 2. You can also check at connectlivepermits.org and choose the contractor tab, or myfloridalicense.com/dbpr and choose the verify license tab.
Construction boomed in Florida in 2015 and continues to do so in 2016 with overall construction spending outpacing last year. Each year, thousands of both residential and commercial property owners, businesses and even general contractors in South Florida are solicited by and contract with unlicensed contractors offering construction services. As contractors become busier, the opportunity for unlicensed contractors also increases. An unlicensed contractor is one who makes improvements to real property without the appropriate license to perform the specified work. Typically, unlicensed contractors perform construction services for less than licensed contractors because they avoid fees associated with licensure as well as avoid worker’s compensation and liability insurance.
PASCO COUNTY, Fla. – As the damage from Hurricane Hermineis assessed, Sheriff Chris Nocco is warning homeowners with damage to watch out for unlicensed contractors and scam artists.
“People from out of state know that Florida got hit with this hurricane, so they’re going to try to take advantage of the situation.” He said. “They’re going to come in, we’re going to get over loaded with unlicensed contractors, above and beyond what are already here.”
The Sheriff says there haven’t been any reports of unlicensed contractors yet, but that doesn’t mean it’s not happening.
THE VILLAGES, Fla. - An air conditioning contractor working without a contractor’s license, has been charged with ripping off two Villages homeowners. Christopher Michael Romanenko, 39, of Fruitland Park, has been arrested on two Sumter County warrants charging him with grand theft from persons 65 or older.
HOLLYWOOD, Fla. - Thecaveat for those in the market for a new home has always been "buyer beware," but in Hollywood, it might also be "seller, beware."
City code officers posing as potential homebuyers are checking properties to see if they were remodeled without the proper permits. The crackdown began after the city received 30 complaints — and officers quickly found five violators. They were given 60 days to come into compliance or face fines of up to $500 a day.
Hollywood officials say they are trying to protect consumers from shoddy, unsafe work. Faulty electrical wiring could cause a fire, experts say, and poor plumbing could lead to a flood.
From The Orange County Consumer Fraud Division. No matter the reason or the season, from remodeling projects to gearing up for hurricane season in Orange County, protecting yourself from fraudulent contractors can save you from unnecessary headaches and expenses. Homeowners around the nation face the same risks when searching for someone to do repair work or remodeling on their homes. Unsuspecting Orange County consumers can be easy prey for unlicensed contractors whose bids are almost inevitably much lower than the bids of licensed contractors.
Information is available to help consumers avoid being scammed by construction fraudsters. A roofer with an unpaid judgment in Tampa opened up shop in Cape Coral. Homeowner Dicque Walz was left hanging after her $900 deposit was never returned and her roof never fixed.
Florida warns of vacation scams: Visit Florida reported 4% increase in tourists in first quarter of 2016
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - With tourism hitting record numbers in the Sunshine State, vacation and travel plans become even more popular in the summer months. Visit Florida recently reported an increase of more than four percent in tourists in the first quarter of 2016. The Florida Office of Financial Regulation (OFR) encourages Floridians and visitors to be on guard for common scams involving vacation and travel plans.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) partnered with local and state agencies, as well as the Capital Area Chapter of the American Red Cross to participate in the “Build Your Bucket” event on Saturday, June 18, 2016. The event provided 250 local residents with natural disaster buckets and information to help them prepare in case of a natural disaster.
LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) – Police busted eight men in an undercover sting that focused on unlicensed contractors. Only 8 On Your Side rode along with police as they took these suspects into custody. Investigators say they advertised their ability to perform wide-ranging plumbing and electrical work without proper licenses or training. All but one had no worker’s compensation coverage to protect their employees in the event of an accident or injury.
LAKELAND — A three-day, four-agency undercover sting led to the arrest of seven men this week, accused of performing a wide-range of plumbing and electrical work without proper licenses or training, according to Lakeland Police Department reports.
Clearwater, FL – With Unlicensed Activity Awareness Week occuBBB & DBPR Partnershiprring June 13 – 17, Better Business Bureau (BBB) and the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) are teaming up again to remind Floridians to thoroughly research professionals and businesses prior to hiring and to report any suspected unlicensed activity.
CITRUS COUNTY, Fl - A three day undercover sting by the Citrus County Sheriff's Office ended in 12 unlicensed contractors facing charges. The sting was a joint operation by the Sheriff's Office and Department of Business and Professional Regulation.
This past Wednesday, June 1, marked the start of the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season, which forecasters predict will be the most active since 2012.
The 2016 Atlantic hurricane season begins on June 1, and the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation is urging consumers to research anyone that could make any repairs to their home or business in the event of a natural disaster.
Better Business Bureau (BBB) is teaming up with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) to celebrate National Hurricane Preparedness Week by encouraging Floridians to create a plan that outlines what to do before, during and after a hurricane.
The Sarasota County Sheriff's Office arrested nine people on multiple charges during Operation Freelancer III, an investigation to protect citizens from unlicensed contractors.
Undercover sting leads to 10 fraud arrests in Manatee County
Palmetto, Fla. – The Florida Department of Financial Services’ Division of Insurance Fraud (DIF) today announced 10 arrests following a multi-agency undercover workers’ compensation sting in Manatee County.
St. Johns, Fla.– The Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) today issued a consumer advisory after the Division of Regulation successfully conducted a sting operation targeting unlicensed individuals in the St. Johns County area.
CLAY COUNTY, Fla. - The Clay County Sheriff’s Office arrested nine unlicensed contractors Friday during 'Operation Drop the Hammer.'
TAMPA BAY, Fla. — The Better Business Bureau is warning local residents affected by the recent storms to beware of “storm chasers” and out-of-town contractors soliciting business.
Seniors vs. Crime is a special project that uses the force of the State Attorney General’s Office and volunteers to help educate and protect seniors from harmful activity.