DEPARTMENT OF BUSINESS AND PROFESSIONAL REGULATION
UNLICENSED ACTIVITY MEDIA CAMPAIGN 2014-2015
Each year, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) executes a media campaign to draw attention to the dangers of unlicensed activity in Florida and to educate Floridians on the importance of hiring state licensed professionals. Unlicensed activity occurs when an individual represents themselves as a state licensed professional or offers services for compensation that require a state license.
What Consumers Need to Know
DBPR licenses and regulates more than 30 professional license types. To learn more about the professions licensed and regulated by DBPR, click here. If you are seeking to obtain services or do businesses with any person or organization within those categories, always verify the state license first.
DBPR takes unlicensed activity very seriously because it threatens the livelihood of Florida's consumers as well as takes away business from state licensed professionals throughout Florida.
Unlicensed activity is against the law
It also poses various financial and safety dangers to consumers. One of those risks is that shoddy or incomplete work performed by an unlicensed individual is not typically covered by homeowner's insurance. That means, if a consumer finds that the work that is performed was substandard, insurance will not reimburse the individual for the money spent out of pocket in a hurry after a storm or even pay to get the job done right. Therefore, it's crucial that professional licenses are verified with DBPR ahead of any work being performed.
In the event of a natural disaster, remember that all repair work performed on your home or business should be completed by a licensed professional. During a declared State of Emergency, the penalty for unlicensed construction activity becomes a third-degree felony. For more information on how to protect yourself and your business from unlicensed activity following a natural disaster, click here.
Other dangers of hiring unlicensed individuals include:
Poor qualifications. Unlicensed persons typically do not have the education, insurance, or qualification required of a licensee.
Poor quality work. Unlicensed individuals typically do poor quality work or do not finish the project, leaving the homeowner on the hook to repair or finish the project.
Possible criminal background. Unlicensed persons often have criminal backgrounds that may include fraud, theft, violent crime, sexual offenses, and substance abuse.
Likelihood of being the victim of a scam. Unlicensed persons often disappear after taking your money, and the department cannot discipline an unlicensed person, help get your money back, or require the person to finish or improve the work done. Scams in the construction industry, especially home improvement, are sadly widespread. Con artists pose as contractors and often target vulnerable people and take advantage of homeowner's need for urgent post-hurricane property damage.
Limited resources for broken contracts. When you have a dispute with a licensed contractor, you call the department, which has the authority to discipline and even revoke the license. This gives the licensee more incentive to play fair. However, this type of action is not available against unlicensed contractors and homeowners often find the only answer is an expensive, and generally futile, civil suit.
No insurance and liability for injuries to others. You may end up being liable for personal or financial injuries to others. An unlicensed individual typically is uninsured and will have no way to pay you back for any property damage.
No coverage under homeowner's policy. Most homeowner policies require that work must be done by a licensed contractor and provide no coverage for work that is not.
Noncompliance with building codes. Most projects, even small ones, require permits and inspections that unlicensed individuals ignore or are unfamiliar with. If your project isn't permitted or doesn't comply with the building code, you may have to remove or repair the work at your own expense and be subject to fines by local government.
Liens being imposed on your property. You may be subject to liens placed on your property by subcontractors or supplies.
To protect yourself from unlicensed activity when researching who to hire, you can:
When hiring a contractor for repair of an A/C unit, always verify your original warranty. Your current system may still be under warranty. Most warranties are valid for 10 or 20 years.
Ask for a second opinion. Get three bids, check references, and get a written contract. By asking for a second opinion, you can verify that the first estimate or assessment by a contractor does not contradict.
Ask for a formal quote and estimate. Do not commit to a contract or pay on the spot. Do not make a payment on the spot or provide personal or financial information. Oftentimes, scams are committed by individuals who pressure consumers to make a decision on the spot by greatly reducing the price. Be attentive to these high-pressure sales tactics and make informed decisions.
Ask the individual for their license number. The license number must also appear on all advertising for the business.
On any construction or repair job, don't pay more than 10 percent down or $1,000, whichever is less, until the job is complete.
Beware of scams when individuals ask for all the money up front, will only accept cash, or solicit door-to-door.
Do not sign a certificate of completion until you are satisfied with the work done.
With or without a license number, consumers should verify professional licenses by calling the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation at (850) 487-1395 or visiting the website at www.myfloridalicense.com.
If a consumer suspects they are a victim of unlicensed activity, they can report it to the department by:
Calling the ULA Hotline: 866.532.1440 (inside Florida) or 850.488.6603 (outside Florida)
DBPR Mobile app: Can verify licenses by name or number and can also send in a complaint including descriptions and pictures straight from their mobile device to DBPR
DBPR Mobile App
DBPR recently made it easier and faster for consumers to file complaints of unlicensed activity to the department through the DBPR Mobile app. The new “Report Unlicensed Activity” function of the app allows consumers to submit complaints of unlicensed activity with descriptions and pictures directly from mobile devices and the complaint information is sent to DBPR headquarters in close to real time. To learn more about reporting unlicensed activity using the DBPR Mobile app, consumers can watch the how-to video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x2MWba_rU_M. The DBPR Mobile app is free to download and is available on the iTunes and Google Play app stores.
What Licensed Professionals Can Do Spread the Message
If you're a licensed professional, you too can spread the message to Floridians about the importance of hiring licensed professionals. Encourage your customers to verify your professional license. Explain to your customers the type of education, training and testing you underwent to obtain your state license. By creating more informed customers, you too will benefit from helping Floridians to know the importance of hiring licensed professionals and how to report unlicensed activity.