When planning your home improvement or remodeling project, it’s important that you avoid unlicensed contractors. You may think unlicensed contractors can save you time and money, but it could cost you far more than you ever imagined. In addition to the costs of fixing poor work, you can face penalties from the state of Florida.

Hiring an unlicensed contractor often means lower cost but it also means lower quality, and no guarantees. The work is often shoddy and unsafe. You will likely end up spending more money trying to fix the problems they created. Your personal safety and financial future are for more important than trying to save a few dollars.

In Florida, every contractor, whether a general contractor or a specialized contractor, must possess either a certified contractor’s license issued by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR), or a registered contractor’s license issued by the specific municipality where the contracting work is being performed.

The State of Florida and county governments take the problem of unlicensed contractors seriously. In Sarasota County, for example, there have been three sting operations this year alone. The most recent operation in November lead to the arrest of 16 people. There were 23 people arrested in the first two operations.

Watch a video of the sting

In October, Pinellas County arrested 17 people in an unlicensed contractor sting, and 10 were arrested in a sting in June. In Lee County, 14 unlicensed contractors were arrested in August.

Although some people knowingly hire unlicensed contractors to save money, others hire general contractors they think are licensed. They either just assume the contractor is licensed or they fail to ask and check for themselves.

It is your responsibility to make sure you are hiring someone who is licensed and qualified to do the work. Checking for a license is as easy as searching an online database. You can check a contractor’s license through the state of Florida or county government. You can read our blog post,”10 Tips for Choosing a Contractor,” for more ways to find a licensed contractor.

If you don’t do your due diligence, or you knowingly hire an unlicensed contractor, you could be in legal trouble as well. 

Hiring unlicensed contractors is illegal

It’s illegal to knowingly hire an unlicensed contractor.  If the state learns that an unlicensed contractor is doing work for you, it may issue a cease and desist notice requiring you to stop the work, resulting in construction delay costs.  You could face fines up to $5,000.

You are responsible for any damages and worker injuries occurring during the project inasmuch as unlicensed contractors often lack general liability and workers’ compensation insurance.

You can report unlicensed activity on the state website at myfloridalicense.com.

Before you start any home improvement projects or major remodeling, make sure you choose a licensed contractor. You will save time and money, and you’ll be much happier with the results.