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Investigating Contractors

DBPR: Don’t Take Contractors At Their Word

Kathleen Corso, Local 10 Producer

PEMBROKE PINES, Fla. — When Valerie Terras decided to upgrade her hurricane window protection, she got bids from three different companies.

She was ready to hand over a hefty deposit to one company, only to find out they weren’t licensed or insured.

“You think because someone comes out and talks to you and responds to your calls, they’re legit,” said Terras. “Then when you dig deeper, you find out they’re not what they claim to be.”

Terras discovered the company’s lack of credentials by searching state and county databases.

Officials with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation say that’s something every consumer should do before hiring any contractor.

“Don’t take the contractor’s word that they are what they say they are,” said Mark Reneger with the DBPR.

Start by asking for and getting copies of their license and insurance. If someone shows you an “occupational license,” Renegar says ignore it.

“This is not a license at all; this is simply a piece of paper anyone can get for paying a fee to the county. It’s really just a tax and the term is changing to reflect that,” said Renegar. “It’ll soon be called an ‘occupational tax.’”

Many consumers are also unaware of a new Florida law regarding contractor deposits. Under the law, any contractor who requests a deposit of 10 percent or more must pull a permit within 30 days and start the work within 90 days, unless the consumer agrees to different terms in writing.

No matter what the time frame is for the job, be sure to check the contractor’s complaint history with your local Better Business Bureau, the Florida DBPR, and the county where you live.

“Any public complaints are public record,” said Renegar. “You can get copies and know exactly what this person did wrong.”

Properly checking out a contractor can be a time-consuming process, but Valerie Terras considers it time and money well-spent.

“Now I can know that I’m hiring someone with the proper qualifications, and if there are problems, I’ll have recourse through the state,” said Terras.

Miami-Dade County
Broward County
Better Business Bureau

Copyright 2006 by All rights reserved.

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