Are you looking for a contractor?
Whether you want to remodel your home or need your roof repaired, finding the right person for the job isn’t easy.
How much will it cost? Will they do a good job? Did a friend or family member recommend them to you? And because Miami is, well, Miami, you might also worry about getting ripped off. Will they actually finish the job or just walk away with the money?
Although not foolproof, there are things you can do to verify your contractor’s activities before signing a contract.
Contractor License Search
Before calling a company or contractor for an estimate, and especially before entering into a contract, find out if Florida requires a license for the type of work you want to do. Then check to see if your contractor is licensed.
Licensed contractors have met a list of county and state requirements that show they know how to do the job properly. Licensed contractors must also have insurance and are regulated by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.
By law, every contractor licensed by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation is required to include a license number in any advertisement. However, don’t just take their word for it. Check their license status and insurance to make sure it’s still active.
To verify a contractor’s license, visit www.myfloridalicense.com or call 850-487-1395. You can also download the Department for Business and Professions Regulation mobile app. The license search lets you search by name, license number, city or county, and license type. You can see if the license is current or revoked or expired, and check license complaints.
To verify insurance, ask the contractor for proof of insurance (such as a certificate of insurance), then call the insurer to verify that the policy is up-to-date and has sufficient coverage for your project.
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody’s office also recommends checking to see if contractors are bonded, which means they received a surety bond from a third-party company, and check with the bonding agency. Think of it as an extra layer of protection: if something goes wrong with the project and it’s the contractor’s fault, you won’t have to pay for the damages. The surety company will take care of it.
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Keep in mind that Florida requires different licenses depending on the type of work the contractor will be performing. If you need a new roof, find a contractor with a roofing license. Building or repairing a swimming pool? You need a contractor with a pool license.
What about certified general contractors?
Although they can be hired to build anything in Florida, they might not be able to do the job themselves.
“As a basic requirement, a general contractor must subcontract all electrical, mechanical, plumbing, roofing, sheet metal, pool and air conditioning work” unless the contractor “holds a state certificate or registration in the respective sub-commerce category,” Florida-based law firm Jimerson Birr wrote in a blog post.
Also, “beware of people who only produce a ‘professional license’ or business record. A “professional license” only means that the person has paid a tax receipt to the local municipality,” according to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.
Do roofing, air conditioning, pool and plumbing repairs require a Florida licensed contractor?
In Florida, contractors need a license to do work in a variety of areas, including roofing, air conditioning, pool, and plumbing. Some jobs do not require a license, such as lawn maintenance or installing cabinets, or wood and tile flooring. However, some counties or cities may require contractors to have a local business tax receipt or certificate of competency for services that do not require a state license, the state says.
What if it was a small job?
“As of July 1, 2020, do-it-yourself work with total construction costs of less than $2,500 is exempt from state licensing requirements when the work is occasional, minor, or inconsequential in nature,” the page reads. Department FAQs. “Check with your building department to see if the work is eligible and if there are any local licensing requirements. Typically, work requiring a permit is not of an occasional, minor or inconsequential nature.”
Florida Registered and Certified Contractors: What’s the Difference?
When researching a contractor, you may find some that are “registered” and others that are “certified.” Indeed, Florida offers two types of licenses: registration and certification.
Registered contractors can only work in cities or counties that have granted them a contract license. A Miami-Dade registered contractor, for example, might not have a license to perform contract work in Broward County.
Certified contractors, on the other hand, are allowed to work anywhere in the state.
Check a company’s BBB rating
If you’re considering hiring a company to repair your roof, expand your home, or another expensive project, check their rating with the Better Business Bureau, or BBB, at bbb.org
The 100-plus-year-old organization’s mission is to help people “find and recommend businesses, brands and charities they can trust”. You can read reviews, view resolved and unresolved complaints, and check the company’s BBB rating (A+ to F or “No rating” due to insufficient information). You can also see how long the business has been in business.
BBB reports on accredited and non-accredited businesses across the country and allows you to filter search results by business name, business category (example: auto repair, roofers), and city, state, and zip code . If the company has a BBB accreditation, it means that it has met the BBB standards and paid the accreditation fee.
While not foolproof, if the business is BBB accredited and has an A or A+ rating, it’s usually a good sign.
▪ Besides the BBB, do an online search for the contractor to see what results come up. Some businesses may have a Yelp or Facebook page, where people can also leave reviews.
▪ You can use other websites to help you find a contractor, including Angi (formerly Angie’s List). However, if you use Angi, keep in mind that entrepreneurs who advertise on the site will be the first to appear in search results, with the label “Angi Certified”.
Get a written quote and read the contract
Once you call a contractor, be sure to get a written estimate that includes the work the contractor will perform, a list of materials, the date of completion and the total cost, according to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.
If you have chosen a contractor, make sure you get a written contract that includes an “accurate description” of the work to be done, including a schedule for completion, a list of materials, a completion date, and information. cleanup for when the job is complete, according to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.
The contract must also include the contractor’s name, address, phone number, state license number and warranty agreements, including duration, terms and resources, the department says.
If the contract involves general, residential and construction contractors, it must also include notice of consumer rights under the Florida Homeowners’ Construction Recovery Fund, according to the department.
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Watch for warning signs that a contractor might not be licensed
The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation states that red flags can mean a contractor is unlicensed.
These warning signs include:
▪ Advertising without license number
▪ Wanting all or most of the money up front and cash only. The person may also ask you to “write the check to them individually or ‘cash’ it.”
▪ The entrepreneur provides a PO box address instead of a civic address.
▪ The handyman tries to convince you that a permit is not necessary or that it will cost you less to get the permit yourself.
▪ The contractor does not want to give you a written contract.
And remember, if the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
This story was originally published April 28, 2022 06:00.