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How to investigate local contractors before hiring them

Now is the time to know how to investigate before you even consider hiring a contractor. It’s easy, only takes a few minutes and could save you tons of cash and heartache.

First and foremost, not all home jobs are created equal. Some might only require a person to have a local license, others a state license. You can find out which by calling your county building department.

One example: Hurricane shutter work can be a local license; whereas, a roofer needs a state contracting license.

Next, make sure the business is registered on Sunbiz.org, and ask for proof that they’re insured. But don’t stop there. Call the insurance company to make sure it’s active.

To look up local lawsuits or small claims court, go to the county clerk of court website and search both the business name and its owner.

Last but not least, there are three places you should check for complaints, the Better Business Bureau, your county code enforcement or building department, and the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

HOW TO CHECK A BACKGROUND

Before hiring a contractor, consumers should verify the contractor is both registered and licensed. Closed contractor complaints with the DBPR are posted with the license information.

The county clerk’s website will post lawsuits, small claims cases and charges.

Contractor complaints can also be filed at various levels.

At the state level, consumers can report issues to the State Attorney General and the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

The DBPR says local jurisdictions also have disciplinary authority over state registered contractors per s.489.131(7), Florida Statutes. In addition, local jurisdictions have disciplinary authority to suspend the permits and permitting privileges of certified contractors for willful code violations and fraud per s.489.113(4), Florida Statutes.

Law enforcement agencies may also have an economic crimes unit where consumers can report concerns.

Clients who lose money may also apply for the state recovery fund. In 2017-2018, The Department of Business and Professional Regulation received 139 claims. Of that number, 77 of those claims were eligible. Of the eligible claims, 44 of them were awarded money and the average claim payout was $35,660.85. The Florida Legislature appropriated $5.5 million which was available for consumers during the 2017-18 fiscal year. The amount varies from year to year depending on how much the legislature decides to appropriate.

Reporter:Allison Gormly
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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