Hurricane Ian left parts of Florida’s west coast underwater and unrecognizable.
While organizations are already collecting aid to help the thousands of Floridians affected by the deadly storm, expect a long road to recovery. People will need to rebuild homes and businesses, and it likely won’t be long before a surge of contractors descend on the Southwest Florida hurricane zone.
That means people will need to be on alert for scammers and contractors who aren’t qualified to fix their homes.
While not fool-proof, here are some tips to help you avoid getting swindled:
Before requesting an estimate
Contact your insurance to make sure the repairs you need are covered. Then check to see if Florida requires contractors to have a license for the work you want done. Contractors need a state license for roofing, air-conditioning and plumbing, for example, but not to remove debris, fallen trees or to install cabinets, wood or tile flooring.
Keep in mind that Florida requires different licenses depending on the type of work the contractor will be doing. If you need a new roof, find a contractor with a roofing license. Need to install or repair electrical wiring? You’ll need a licensed electrician.
Verify a contractor’s license
Licensed contractors have met a list of county and state requirements that show they know how to do the work properly. Licensed contractors are also required to have insurance and are regulated by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.
Florida offers two types of licenses: registration and certification.
Registered contractors can only do work in cities or counties that have given them a contracting license. A registered contractor in Lee County for example, might not have a license to do contract work in Collier County.
Certified contractors, on the other hand, are allowed to work anywhere in the state.
To verify a contractor’s license, visit www.myfloridalicense.com or call 850-487-1395. You can also download the Department of Business and Professional Regulation mobile app. This is also how you can check for any complaints.
Watch out for red flags
The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation has a list of red flags to look out for when searching for a contractor.
These warning signs include:
▪ Advertising without a license number.
▪ Wanting all or most of the money up front and only in cash. The person might also ask you to “write the check to them individually or to “cash.””
▪ Giving a post office box address instead of a street address.
▪ Trying to convince you that a permit isn’t necessary or that it’ll be cheaper for you to get the permit yourself.
▪ Avoiding giving you a written contract.
If the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Make sure to compare estimates from several contractors.
And remember, even if contractors say they’re licensed, do your homework.
Check their license, if they’ve had any complaints filed and do an online search to see what results come up. If you’re thinking of hiring a company to fix your home, check to see what rating it has with the Better Business Bureau, too.