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Accountability is just as important as craftsmanship.

It’s unfortunate that so many people receive poor or uncompleted work when it can be easily avoided. You don’t have to take anyone’s word for it when they claim to be licensed. By law, contractors are required to have their license number on their business card and any other form of advertisement. You should ask for the number prior to scheduling an estimate with a contractor. There is no reason to even have the individual drop by for an estimate if they don’t have a license.


It is a potential Red Flag if their business card says; licensed and insured but there is no actual license number listed on the card.

A contractor without a license is not a contractor

 Written by Michael Weaver
 

Hire a licensed contractor. It protects you, your investment, and the construction industry.

It is a criminal offense in Florida to lead homeowners to believe you are a licensed contractor without a valid contractor’s license. 

I have gone to estimate many jobs that were total failures by unlicensed individuals. (See how I won’t even refer to them as unlicensed contractors.) Tiles falling off walls, showers leaking into adjacent rooms and terrible aesthetics are only part of what I’ve seen. Most of the time the customer hired the individual because someone recommended them. I understand that, but what works for one, may not work for all. Your project may be more complex than your neighbors and this person may not even be specialized in the particular trade you need. Individuals that perform unlicensed work tend to do whatever kind of work comes their way.


Even licensed general contractors are required to hire licensed sub-contractors for specialty trade work. They know the key to a great construction project is having people in place that have accountability for the work that they do. If a person doesn’t have a license, how could you hold them accountable for their quality of work? Unlicensed individuals are notorious for taking a deposit and never showing up to do a single thing.

When it comes to cost, licensed contractors do not compete with unlicensed individuals. They simply cannot, and will not. To maintain a business that follows state and local laws is at an expense so called unlicensed contractors cannot even understand. A licensed contractor will furnish the appropriate materials for your project, whereas others may supply the bare minimum in terms of cost. Unlicensed individuals are already trying to get away with something in not having a license, I could be wrong, but that attitude may be present when they claim they have your best interest in mind.



If you’re looking to have work done in your home, the best piece of advice to follow is to make sure the company or individual, has a license for the specific type of work that you want done. Below are some of the ways to make sure you have the right person with the right license.

In the state of Florida a contractor’s license will always list the name of the qualifier. This is the individual that earned their certificate of competency (license) by passing the contractors exam. The name of the company that the qualifier is qualifying will also be displayed. That means this individual is responsible for making sure the company is in compliance with local building practices. They are the subject matter expert for that company. Every construction company must have a qualifier. It does not mean that the qualifier has to perform the work, but they are responsible if the workers perform sub-standard work.

There will also be a license number, date of issue, expiration date and it will display where the licensed may be used e.g. county, city or state.

A contractor is an individual or a company that is licensed to enter into a contract with a customer for a specific type of work.


If you are an unlicensed contractor, you are not a contractor at all, the same way a doctor without the appropriate degree is not a doctor.


The bottom line is as a homeowner you are responsible to protect yourself. Don’t get taken advantage of, or wind up with a remodel that puts your family in danger. By time you confront them with the things you are unhappy about they’re either gone, unwilling or incapable of rectifying their mistakes. You will have no recourse after you hire an unlicensed individual. This is because you never entered a contract with that person, they are not a contractor and so legally they don’t have to do anything they promised. It is much worse for homeowners than it is for unlicensed individuals. They don’t get caught often enough, and the penalties on the first offense actually cost less money than the process of getting a license!


Homeowners should know, you are not liable to give an unlicensed individual a dime! If you find out during the course of a project that they are not licensed, you do not owe them a thing.

When you turn down someone that does not have a license, you may have just dodged a bullet

 If you feel that someone is impersonating a contractor or they have begun a project and you made the mistake of hiring them, give your local code enforcement a call. They will stop by and speak with the individual to make sure you are protected.  


SHOWER TILE INSTALLATION BUILT TO LAST

If you made it to the end of this article you're in for a treat. Check out the video below. This video will definitely make you think twice about hiring an unlicensed contractor. A tragic combination of comedy and heartache in real time.


When you hire an unlicensed individual you become responsible for everything a licensed contractor is responsible for.  In a sense, you have become the contractor hiring unqualified help. If they get injured, they can take legal action against you.  You want beautiful work done in your home, not the liabilities that come with being a contractor.



There is an application process that potential contractors must complete. Applicants must demonstrate that they are of good moral character with a level 2 background check conducted by The Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the FBI. Applicants must also meet the minimum financial requirements. This is in addition to the required trade experience and proof of being in a supervisory capacity for that trades minimum.  Upon approval prospective contractors must take the Construction Trade exam as well as the Business and Law exam. Every two years the contractor is required to turn in certificates to the county that prove they completed their continuing education.

These licenses are not just handed out.  I have heard unlicensed individuals say “It’s just a piece of paper and a fee, anybody can do it.”  Keep telling yourself that. If it was easy everybody would have that “piece of paper”.

For individuals that want to be a contractor but are overwhelmed, I will admit, the process is daunting. A lot of paperwork to complete and a process that is less than streamlined make it difficult to even know where to begin. The best time to begin the process is while you are still working for someone else. I was fortunate, I tested for my license when I was still employed by a contractor, so I never had to do unlicensed work. I didn’t do anything special other than learn my trade well, and see the process through.  Anything worth doing is worth doing right now. Look into becoming licensed, you can do it if you see it through.

It is against Florida law for a contractor to rent out, or let someone else borrow their license. A qualifier may only qualify one business at any given time.
If an individual displays a license number that is not registered with that company, they either have stolen the number, or are “renting” someone else’s license. Either way, that’s trouble.

A contractor is not such by accident, they have made the decision to do it by the book, and the book is not an easy read.