What to know before hiring a contractor​​

It's tempting for homeowners to hire unlicensed contractors because of the perceived lower costs, however it is illegal for many reasons. If Florida state or County learns that an unlicensed contractor perfomed work in your home a "cease and decist" order could be levied on your property along with fines up to $5,000 or more! 

In Florida, unlicensed contracting is a misdemeanor or can be a felony depending on factual circumstances. Consequently, unlicensed contractors offer no liable way of legally protecting the homeowner from personal injury at the job or of shoddy or incomplete workmanship. 

Think twice before hiring an unlicensed contracor in Florida. If the state or County is investigating you for hiring an unlicensed contractor, or if you have disputes with an unlicensed contracor you have no legal recourse in the Florida court system. 

An Occupational, or Buisness License is NOT a
contractors license
Why hire a licensed contractor?
To protect homeowners from loss, the state created the Florida State Construction Industry Licensing Board (CILB) and administers the "Florida Homeowners Construction Recovery Fund". If you lose money on a project perfomed under contract where the loss results were due to an unscrupulous LICENSED contractor you may be eligable for payment of up to $50,000 from this fund. If you choose to hire an unlicensed contractor at your home or business, you have no legal rights under the statue that created this fund. 

Homeowners can confirm a contractor's license is legitimate and current by visiting the Florida state website by clicking below. Select “Verify a license,” and then search by license number or contractor name.
Florida License Portal
Top Questions to ask before hiring a contractor​​

1.) Are you a properly licensed State Certified Contractor?

Because of the warm winters and experiences with large scale storms that can create property damage, Florida is plagued with unskilled and unlicensed contracting. Florida has building codes that are totally unfamiliar with most of American contractors. As a result, Florida has one of the strictest applications and tests to become a licensed contractor. Florida contractors are required to renew their license with continuing education every two years. If the contractor is not a Florida Board Certified Contractor, he/she is working illegally and the client will have no recourse or rights in the court system to recover any property damaged or lost money. To verify the license of any individual or company you can go to myflorida.com   
2.)How long have you been in business?

A quality general contractor should be highly experienced and knowledgeable about all aspects of building and construction. Will the license holder of the company be working with you on your project, or will they assign a project manager? Be sure to ask who is the project manager and about his or her qualifications. To protect homeowners, any contract for construction in Florida is required to be signed by the licensed contractor or his/her legally duly authorized representative only, along with a copy of pertaining Florida Statues spelled out. You can verify any companies’ length of business by visiting sunbiz.org.
 3.) Are you bonded and insured?
Bonding and or proper insurance is incredibly important on building a new home or remodeling an existing one. Bonding means that a third-party company has reviewed the professionals back ground and credit and has granted him/her a certain dollar amount of surety bonding. The bond helps protect the homeowner from financial damage if the contractor refuses to complete work specified or doesn’t pay subcontractors or materials. Liability insurance for contractors has a one million minimum and protects both the homeowner and the professional in the event of an accident, injury or damage to property. In Florida, all homeowners are protected with up to $50,000 should the licensed contractor not fulfill his/her obligations in a contract agreement. All contractors in Florida are required to file insurance paperwork in the counties they work in. Sarasota County can be verified here.
 4.) What about background checks?

When hiring a professional that is Board certified to be a contractor in the state of Florida, he/she is required to perform an extensive background check with the Florida DBPR and CILB. This background of the individual includes finger printing, criminal background, credit checks, financial capital in the amount of $40,000, as well as provide proof of an accredited four-year degree or proof of on the job training and experience. The contractors name should be listed as active with the Florida DBPR.
 5.) How will you estimate this project?

On any new building or large remodel project a client will need to know what type of contract price they prefer to work with or which one the general contractor will work with. Knowing the difference can save some confusion. A.) FIXED PRICE. On all new building and large remodel projects an AIA A201-2007 contract agreement is drafted by an Architect specifying all exact named materials to be used along with specific drawings, engineering, stamps, and terms. The Architect or engineer oversees the project during payments and disputes or resolves any issues. This is the only method to use in receiving accurate bids for a fixed price on any remodel or new construction. Architectural and engineering fees range hourly from $110.00 to $350 per hour for small projects, or larger projects 10% of building or remodel costs. If your project does not require extensive engineering and to save money, ask your contractor if he/she is a design/build company and if so, hire them to provide the drawings and scope of work.
In a FIXED PRICE agreement, the contractor takes all responsibility to finish the project at the contract price. A contract agreement that only describes “remodel entire home for $100,000” is either an amateur or setting up for plenty of ambiguity. A FIXED PRICE agreement will have the entire scope line by line. B.) COST PLUS. With a detailed specified scope and drawings provided by the client or architect a contractor will provide the specified materials and labor in accordance with all the terms of the duration of the agreement and the client pays the contractor during the terms all costs, plus in addition a percentage fee for overhead and profit which is usually between 25 to 30 percent. C.) TIME AND MATERIALS. Some projects do not have a definitive start and end because of complexity or unforeseen circumstances. In this case a Time and Material contract is used where the client pays a certain dollar amount per hour, plus material costs, plus 25 to 30 percent overhead and profit.
All contracts are required by state law to have the individual license holders name showing the certified number and signed by the license holder or their duly authorized representative or the contract is null and void. A contract should be specific of the entire scope listing all specific items room by room that are included along with drawings showing details. Once again, do not enter into an agreement that only specifies limited ambiguous terms such as “remodel entire home for $100.000”

6.)  Who will be the project manager?

A project manager is responsible for coordinating all procurements, material research, labor scheduling and overseeing and managing the entire project from start to finish. The project manager will be your contact person before and during the entire duration of the project. A project manager should have a minimum of 4 years hands-on extensive building and remodeling experience and be familiar with material installation process, the Florida building codes and permit process. A salesperson or designer is not a project manager and is a recipe for expensive mistakes and disasters. The overall success or failure of the building or remodel project is in the hands of the project manager.
 7.) How long will my project take?

A good contractor will know how long your project will take to complete and should also be experienced enough to know that it’s common to have unexpected problems that can bring delays. Does the contractor have his/her own team, or do they subcontract out all of the trades? This could determine the length of time to completion. Your contractor should be clear on working schedules, start and finish dates should be agreed upon in the contract agreement.  
 8.) What if my project is water, fire, or storm damage?

Insurance restoration. How can I get an estimate?
Insurance companies mostly use an estimating software called Exactimate to estimate the costs of restoration services. Contractors who specialize in this field of fire and water have this software and are proficient in using it. You are not required to use the contractor provided by your insurance agent or carrier, however it is imperative to hire a contractor familiar with this type of scope and process dealing with insurance adjusters. Insurance carriers are often notorious for underpaying homeowner claims and a highly experienced contractor with insurance restoration experience is priceless to get your insurance claim to be fair and get your property back to being whole again.
 9.) Will we need a permit, professional drawings or an engineer?

Any new construction or alteration of an existing building will require a permit and a stamped drawing of the scope. If the alteration includes an exterior wall, an interior load bearing wall, electrical or plumbing chases, or any load calculations an engineer will be required to perform the drawings and stamps.
10.) Can you provide me with references or show me a completed project?

A successful general contractor should be proud and more than willing to share past projects with you as well as provide phone numbers for references. Also, just as important, a contractor should have proven established years of consistency with an internet search with review websites such as the BBB, Google, Angies List, Houzz, Nextdoor, Yelp, Service Magic or Home Advisor. Any business can completely bleach or remove a negative online presence. It should be a warning sign if the contractor is a complete ghost or has a very short or limited online presence. If they do have negative reviews, ask them their end of the story and determine if it is a legit cause to move forward.

Most Kitchen cabinet showrooms are unlicensed and can only sell or install their own cabinets. In Florida, Unlicensed Kitchen cabinet showrooms or companies are not allowed to perform or enter into direct contract, or contracting, subcontracting, remodeling or alterations of any kind of any building. Any contracting in Florida must be signed directly with a Board Certified Florida State Contractor or their duly authorized representative. 

"Exclusive Kitchens & More of Sarasota"

Examples of unlicensed work we run into

"Amateur designs"

"Dangerous electric panels"

"See the set screw glowing red hot?"

"HVAC duct in the way, so what!"