LEE COUNTY, Fla. — More and more construction sites are going up across Southwest Florida. The Better Business Bureau says before you jump on the booming real estate market or even home repairs, do your homework.
This hurricane season, consumer experts like Bryan Oglesby, with the Better Business Bureau, say be prepared for two things: storm damage and what comes next.
“Unlicensed contractors will come in, usually out of town. Come knocking on your door, asking to do repairs on your home,” he said.
The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation has received 911 unlicensed activity complaints regarding contractors since January 1, 2021.
Oglesby says with the shortage of supply and a high demand to put more homes on the market, contractors without licenses are lining up to fill the gaps. He added many times those unlicensed contractors will ask for an upfront payment, and won’t return to finish the work.
“Ask to see their license number, and verify it through the state of Florida DBPR at myfloridalicense.com,” he said.
DBPR tracks licenses granted by local counties, and the state’s Construction Industry Licensing Board. They’ve teamed up with Oglesby's organization to spread their warning of unlicensed contractors far and wide.
Oglesby says not all unlicensed contractors are bad guys, but it’s illegal to operate without one in Florida, and signing on with one means you could be taking a risk.
“Even though they may want to be legitimate and want to do the job, and finish the job, if they don’t have the proper licensing, you as a consumer don’t have the protections in place should something go wrong,” he said.
Oglesby added not all licensed ones do good business. So, if you have doubts about a contractor, Look for this a Better Business Bureau accredited seal.
“Better Business Bureau does that homework for you. We vet these contractors to make sure they’re licensed, they’re vetted and they’re approved to the standards of BBB accreditation as well,” he said.
Oglesby says even if you see that seal, you can always double check that the business is accredited by going to the better business bureau’s website.
According to DBPR, if caught practicing unlicensed activity, a contractor may receive a Cease & Desist, fines up to $10,000, and a referral to local criminal prosecuting authority.