As Florida grows . . . so does the practice of unlicensed contracting. This practice can result in financial harm to consumers. Don’t get left holding a big bill because your contractor didn’t do things right!
Although the unlicensed contractor/servicer’s price may look attractive at first glance, there are serious pitfalls when all things are considered. You could end up spending much more than the job was worth and in the end you will have no protection and little recourse.
Today’s professionally licensed air conditioning and heating contractor is controlled by Florida’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation. Certification and Registration is based on an examination of the Contractors level of competency. Financial stability and insurability of applicants is also reviewed by the Department.
Reasons for Avoiding Unlicensed Contractors:
- Many are totally incompetent and lack the experience and training to do the job right. Their financial stability and longevity are questionable – in other words – will they be around in two months to warranty what they repair today?
- Many manufacturers will not honor their limited warranties on equipment that is installed by unqualified individuals – especially if it is incorrectly done.
- Since unlicensed contractors have no legal existence, they are not subject to regulation by the State and therefore are not subject to disciplines that could put them out of business. They are guilty of fraud and will only be prosecuted if the evidence is good enough. Should they damage you, restitution is more difficult when a fine or jail time is the punishment.
- Unlicensed contractors cannot acquire a permit from the local building department, consequently, your job goes uninspected for code violations that may damage your property or threaten your life.
- Nearly all homeowner insurance policies exclude coverage for property damage or personal injury liability where the work of a tradesman is invited. Tradesmen are expected to carry Business Liability and Workers’ Compensation insurance. Most unlicensed contractors can’t purchase this protection leaving you exposed. Imagine the unlicensed contractor getting hurt on your property and suing you!
- According to Florida Statute 455.228 it is unlawful to employ an unlicensed contractor and violations are punishable by up to $5,000.00 and/or a year in jail.
Early Warning Signs – A contractor may not be licensed if:
- advertisements do not include the contractor’s license number;
- a large down payment is required before work begins;
- he or she makes numerous requests for money during the early phases of construction;
- you are asked to obtain the permit;
- you are informed that the job does not require a permit or inspection;
- the contractor is unwilling to put all of the terms in writing and prefers a verbal agreement;
- the contractor does not have proof of insurance;
- the contractor displays only an occupational license;
- the contractor won’t produce a copy of the Contractors Competency Certificate;
- the contractor prefers to work on weekends or after hours;
- you are told to make the check payable to an individual’s name or asked to make all payments in cash;
- there is neither a company name nor a license number on the construction vehicles.
Make sure you use an experienced, licensed professional for your air conditioning and heating needs. The small sums saved when using the unlicensed contractor are not worth the liabilities you gain. If you are unsure about a Contractor’s license status, call your local building department.