Plumber: "Consumers don't know dangers" of unlicensed contractors
Protect yourself and your investments
CAPE CORAL, Fla. - Officials and business owners say unlicensed contractors in Southwest Florida are putting your family at risk.
Four In Your Corner's Colleen Hogan is finding out more on the dangers and asking officials what they're doing to crack down.
Cape Coral homeowner Nita Locklear just had a inspection done by Next Plumbing.
"I've been delighted with (them)," she said. "They've been very courteous, professional, on time."
Sadly, she's been swindled by unlicensed contractors before, so she knows good service.
"Somebody fixes a leak under the sink and within 2 days, it's flooding under the sink," she said, of a past experience.
"I think the consumer has no idea the dangers they're in," professional plumber and part owner of Next Plumbing Scott Gardner said.
Gardner says they've seen work errors so bad, they could have blown someones house up.
He recalls a water heater improperly put in, or water lines so bungled, they were contaminating drinking water. If an unlicensed contractor does work at your house and gets hurt, you are on the hook for damages. You could also face up to a $5,000 fine for breaking the law.
"The homeowner is 100% liable if they hire an unlicensed contractor," he said.
He says a lot of times, people are looking for the cheapest price, or might not know or care that the person's lying about having a license and insurance.
Even still, Gardner says unlicensed contractors continue to brazenly advertise their services in local publications, over the air and on the internet. Some using fake or old id numbers.
"It's against the law," he said.
We asked a Cape Coral code official what the city's doing to crack down.
"We wanna let (unlicensed contractors) know that Cape Coral is no place for them," Cape Coral code compliance director Frank Cassidy said.
Cassidy says they have city staff devoted to the effort. They also run raids and prosecute people through the court system.
"Do you have to catch these people in the act?" Hogan asked Cassidy.
"We have to catch them doing the work inside of our jurisdiction, yes" Cassidy said.
"Is that tough?" Hogan asked Cassidy.
"Yes it is," he said.
He recommends always calling the city to verify a contractor's in good standing, and get at least three bids.
"Trying to save pennies you end up spending dollars," Locklear said. "You hire someone right in the first place, you save in the long run."
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Colleen Hogan, reporter