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Category: Featured News
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Protect Yourself Against Unlicensed Contractors

 

As a State licensed Contractor, we feel that anyone who acts as a contractor should follow the same rules and building codes set forth by the State of Florida and the county where the work is being performed. We have dedicated a section of our website to educate homeowners of the dangers of using unlicensed contractors or people who do side work for extra money. The below information will help you choose the right contractor for your needs, and protect your family, home and neighbors.

 

Workers' Compensation Insurance Coverage

Any construction company that has one or more employees needs workers' comp. If they subcontract their work, the subcontractor has to prove they have workers' comp or the contractor has to pay for it. However, if the contractor is workers' comp exempt they typically can’t provide the coverage needed for the subcontractor. Make the contractor show you his ACORD form. The ACORD form has all the insurance converages. If the contractor doesn’t have workers' comp and an employee gets hurt on your job, they can file a law suit against you to pay for their medical expenses and lost wages. Once you choose a contractor, they will make you a certificate hold and the insurance company will send you an ACORD form.

 

"Construction Industry: An employer in the construction industry who employs one or more part or full-time employees must obtain workers' compensation coverage. Sole proprietors, partners, and corporate officers are considered employees. In the construction industry only, members of a limited liability company are considered corporate officers. Corporate officers may elect to exempt themselves from the coverage requirements of Chapter 440, F.S.
A construction industry contractor, who sub-contracts all or part of their work, must obtain proof of workers' compensation coverage or a Certificate of Election to be Exempt from all sub-contractors, prior to work being done. If the sub-contractor is not covered or exempt, for purposes of workers' compensation coverage, the sub-contractor's employees shall become the employees of the contractor. The contractor will be responsible to pay any workers' compensation benefits to the sub-contractor and its employees."

 

Source: http://www.myfloridacfo.com/wc/employer/index.html

 

Contractor Licensing

"Did you know you could be arrested for using and unlicensed contractor? It's true. In states that require licensing, hiring an unlicensed contractor is illegal. And if that's not bad enough, did you know an unlicensed contractor who gets hurt on your property could sue you -- and win? Unlicensed contractors are unlikely to carry proper insurance, so it has happened. These are the extremes. But even the average experience with an unlicensed contractor can be devastating. Most consumers who call me for help complain that the unlicensed contractor did shoddy work. Others report the contractor made off with their money and did no work at all."

 

Source: http://abcnews.go.com/Business/CreativeConsumer/story?id=2624448

 

Dangers of Hiring an Unlicensed Person

 

"Poor qualifications. Unlicensed persons typically do not have the education, insurance, or qualification required of a licensee.

Poor quality work. Unlicensed contractors 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 contractor typically is uninsured and will have no way to pay you back for any property damage.

Noncompliance with building codes. Most projects, even small ones, require permits and inspections that unlicensed contractors 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. Please see http://www.dbpr.state.fl.us/reg/Liens.html for more information about Florida lien law.

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 contractors 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."

Sources: http://www.myfloridalicense.com/dbpr/reg/ULA-Consumer-Tips.html#CT5

http://www.myfloridalicense.com/dbpr/reg/UnlicensedActivity.html

 

Benefits of Building Permits

A building permit give you legal permission to start construction of a project in accordance with approved drawing and specifications. Permits are usually required for new building, room additions, patios, screen rooms, plumbing and electrical. The best way to find out if a permit is required calls your local building department of a licensed contractor.

 

Your home or business is an investment. If your construction project doses not comply with codes adopted by your community, the value of your investment could be reduce. Property insurance may not cover work done without permits and inspections. If you decide to sell your home or business that has been modifications without a permit, you may be required to tear down the addition, leave it unoccupied, or make costly repairs.

 

Permit Process

 

Submit Application

Review Process- this is the review of drawing and building codes

Receive Permit- After the permit has been approved and is ready for pickup.

Job Site Visit- the county or city will come and inspect the work being done.

Final Approval- After all the work is completed they come out for the last time to confirm work is completed and to satisfaction.

If you would like more information on building permits check with you county or city.

 

International Code Council

http://www.buildingsafetymonth.org/pdf/1002882_Bldg_Permits_Brochure_v1.pdf

 

Hillsborough County

http://www.hillsboroughcounty.org/pgm/bplans/

 

City Of Tampa

http://www.tampagov.net/dept_Construction_Services/

 

Pasco County

http://portal.pascocountyfl.net/portal/server.pt/community/central_permitting/225/home

 

Florida's Construction Lien Law

Protect Yourself and Your Investment

 

 

"According to Florida law, those who work on your property or provide materials, and are not paid-in-full, have a right to enforce their claim forpayment against your property. This claim is known as a construction lien. If your contractor fails to pay subcontractors or material suppliers, the people who are owed money may look to your property for payment, even if you have paid your contractor in full. This means that if a lien is filed against your property, your property could be sold against your will to pay for labor, materials, or other services which your contractor may have failed to pay. This document provides information regarding Florida Statute 713, Part 1, as it pertains to home construction and remodeling, and provides tips on how you can avoid construction liens on your property.

Protecting Yourself

If you hire a contractor and the improvements cost more than $2,500, you should know the following:

 

You may be liable if you pay your contractor and he then fails to pay his suppliers or contractors. There is a way to protect yourself. A Release of Lien is a written statement that removes your property from the threat of lien. Before you make any payment, be sure you receive this waiver from suppliers and subcontractors covering the materials used and work performed on your property.

Request from the contractor, via certified or registered mail, a list of all subcontractors and suppliers who have a contract with the contractor to provide services or materials to your property.

If your contract calls for partial payments before the work is completed, get a Partial Release of Lien covering all workers and materials used to that point.

Before you make the last payment to your contractor, obtain an affidavit from your contractor that specifies all unpaid parties who performed labor, services or provided services or materials to your property. Make sure that your contractor provides you with final releases from these parties before you make the final payment.

Always file a Notice of Commencement before beginning a home construction or remodeling project. The local authority that issues building permits is required to provide this form. You must record the form with the Clerk of the Circuit Court in the county where the property being improved is located. Also post a certified copy at the job site. (In lieu of a certified copy, you may post an affidavit stating that a Notice of Commencement has been recorded. Attach a copy of the Notice of Commencement to the affidavit.)

In addition, the building department is prohibited from performing the first inspection if the Notice of Commencement is not also filed with the building department. You can also supply a notarized statement that the Notice has been filed, with a copy attached.

The Notice of Commencement notes the intent to begin improvements, the location of the property, description of the work and the amount of bond (if any). It also identifies the property owner, contractor, surety, lender and other pertinent information. Failure to record a Notice of Commencement or incorrect information on the Notice could contribute to your having to pay twice for the same work or materials.

 

Notice To Owner

Prior to filing a lien, a lienor who does not have a direct contract with the owner, must serve the owner with a Notice to Owner. The Notice to Owner must state the lienor's name and address, and a description of the real property and the nature of the services or materials being furnished. The Notice to Owner must be

served before commencing, or within 45 days of commencing, to furnish the services or materials (but before owner's final payment to the contractor). A lien cannot be enforced unless the lienor has served the Notice to Owner as described above.

 

Whose Responsibility is it To Get These Releases?

You can stipulate in the agreement with your contractor that he must provide all releases of lien. If it is not a part of the contract, however, or you act as your own contractor, YOU must get the releases.

If you borrow money to pay for the improvements and the lender pays the contractor(s) directly without obtaining releases, the lending institution may be responsible to you for any loss.

 

What Can Happen If I Don't Get Releases Of Lien?

You will not be able to sell your property unless all outstanding liens are paid. Sometimes a landowner can even be forced to sell his property to satisfy a lien.

 

Who Can Claim A Lien On My Property?

Contractors, laborers, materials suppliers, subcontractors and professionals such as architects, landscape architects, interior designers, engineers or land surveyors all have the right to file a claim of lien for work or materials. Always require a release of lien from anyone who does work on your home.

Contesting A Lien

 

A lien is valid for one year, unless a lienor files a lawsuit to enforce the lien prior to the expiration of the year. An owner has a right to file a Notice of Contest of Lien during the one-year period. Upon the filing of a Notice of Contest of Lien, a lienor must file a lawsuit to enforce the lien within 60 days. Failure of the lienor to timely file a lawsuit renders the lien invalid.

 

THE CONSTRUCTION LIEN LAW IS COMPLEX AND CANNOT BE COVERED COMPLETELY IN THIS DOCUMENT. WE RECOMMEND THAT WHENEVER A SPECIFIC PROBLEM ARISES, YOU CONSULT AN ATTORNEY. To register a complaint (or learn if complaints have been filed against a prospective contractor), contact the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation's Customer Contact Center at: 850.487.1395 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Or write to: Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation

1940 North Monroe Street

Tallahassee, Florida 32399-1027

 

Or visit online at: www.MyFloridaLicense.com

License verification is available 24 hours a day and 7 days a week by calling our Customer Contact Center at 850.487.1395 or going online to www.MyFloridaLicense.com› Search for a Licensee.

 

You may also contact your local building department or the Better Business Bureau."

 

Source: http://www.myfloridalicense.com/dbpr/pro/cilb/documents/florida_lien_law.pdf