Protect Yourself from Fraud and Unscrupulous Contractors
Do you really know your contractor? In Florida, one of the most pervasive problems consumers face is unlicensed contracting.
Did you know that the Department of Business and Professional Regulations (DBPR) will only pursue and prosecute a licensed contractor? F.S. 489, one of the guiding statutes for contracting, does not permit the DBPR to pursue unlicensed contracting. Complaints received will be sent back from the DBPR to the local jurisdiction to handle through law enforcement sources if there is a claim involving fraudulent activity.
Example: You are considering having a new roof installed on your building and therefore contact a company from an advertisement or internet website. The contractor seems legitimate. You research the company through the DBPR and the names appear to match the license number. Looks can be deceiving! It turns out that the company owners that appeared legitimate are actually convicted felons and owe over a million dollars to a manufacturer. The owners are misrepresenting the actual license holder to operate unscrupulously and are calling themselves a contracting firm in Florida.
It is critical to do detailed research on every contractor you contemplate hiring. Ask simple questions like the following to protect yourself:
- Are you the actual licensed contractor or are you qualified by a third party license holder?
- Have you ever been convicted of a crime in Florida?
- What is your “loss mod” for workers compensation?
- Have you and your company ever filed an insurance claim in Florida?
- Do you have any outstanding debts owed to any vendor or manufacturer?
- What are the names and contacts for your suppliers and manufacturers?
- Have you personally ever filed bankruptcy or owned a company that filed bankruptcy?
- Is your company incorporated, a partnership or are you operating as a DBA?
These simple questions will protect you from legal issues that could arise later during or after the project completion. It is important to do the appropriate research by contacting insurance companies as well as associated vendors and manufacturers. It is worthwhile to pay for a background check on the contractor and owners of the company. For added protection, have an attorney review every contract to avoid fraudulent contracts offered by unlicensed individuals who are utilizing someone else’s contracting license. To protect your privity rights, make sure the contract is structured to hold the individual both personally and professionally responsible. There is virtually no recourse on a person unlicensed using a third parties contracting license without costly attorney expenses and a lengthy court process. If a principal of the company is borrowing or “qualified” by another individual, the likelihood of ever recovering any remuneration through litigation is generally non-existent. What these individuals typically do is file bankruptcy to avoid any financial judgment and later reopen or merge under another company to borrow yet another individual’s license to defraud people all over again.
Don’t be a victim!
For more information on how to avoid becoming a victim of unlicensed contracting, please contact Commercial Energy Systems, LLC.