Cape officials: Beware of unlicensed contractors

CAPE CORAL, Fla. – As residents continue to clean up after an EF2 tornado struck the southwest portion of the city on Saturday, Cape Coral officials are stressing the importance of not hiring unlicensed contractors.

Cape Coral police released a list of tips for hiring contractors:

  • Be aware of “special” deals or “this is good only for today.”
  • Most contractors will not go door to door looking for business.
  • Ask for names and addresses of previous customers.
  • They may ask for partial or full payment up front without doing any work. Most companies will collect payment when then the work is completed or during stages of the process.
  • Contractors must have state and local license to work in the City of Cape Coral. The license number must be on the work vehicles and contracts they provide to their customers.
  • Consumers can check to see if the contractor is licensed or not.
  • Citizens can also call 239-574-0432, which is the licensing division at City Hall, to verify city and state licensing for contractors.

The Better Business Bureau provided some additional tips:

  • Many municipalities require a solicitation permit if salespeople go do-to-door. Verify that they have to have a permit by contacting your local township or municipality.
  • Be proactive in selecting a contractor and not reactive to sales calls on the phone or door-to-door pitches.
  • While most roofing contractors are honest and will do good work, be careful allowing someone you do not know inspect your roof. Unethical contractors may actually create damage to get work. Try to get at least 3-4 quotes from contractors, and insist payments be made to the company, not an individual.
  • Do not pay for the work in advance. Be wary of any contractor who insists on full or half payment upfront.
  • More importantly, be wary of a contractor trying to push you to sign a contract that makes them the exclusive contractor to do the repair job. This restricts the consumer from shopping around for the best bid to repair the damage. Read all of the fine print in the contract and understand ALL terms and conditions within the contract.
  • Resist high-pressure sales tactics such as the “good deal” you’ll get only if you hire the contractor on the spot. Or if they’ve offered to work for your neighbor, friend or family at a deep discount. These are often red flags something is amiss.
  • Get a written contract that specifies the price, the work to be done, the amount of liability insurance coverage maintained by the contractor, and a time frame. Require a copy of their current certificate of insurance. Pay by credit card, if possible; you may have additional protection if there’s a problem.
  • Check that the contractor’s vehicle has signs or markings on it with the business name, phone number and the appropriate state license plates. Then take the information and check it out using BBB’s Accredited Business Directory.

“BBB also warns area contractors to beware of storm chasers who are willing to pay local construction companies substantial amounts of money to use a local business’s established name, reputation and phone so they can masquerade as a local business,” the group said in a statement. “Many contractors who agreed to let these storm chasers use their name regret their decision once they were left holding the bag of unsatisfied customers due to bad workmanship and/or unfulfilled warranties.”