The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office gets numerous complaints about unlicensed contractors doing shoddy work.
So deputies conducted an undercover sting to get them off the streets.
In a two day undercover sting, deputies rigged a Sarasota home with cameras. The house needs some upgrades, so deputies found some hardworking contractors are up for the challenge.
“In this case, we’re asking them to take down a wall, move some plumbing and some electrical. All of those require licensed contractors and permits,” said SCSO Lt. Adam Kaskey.
All these folks advertised their services online and once inside, they offered estimates ranging anywhere from $1,200 to $20,000.
None of the contractors were licensed.
In all, six people were arrested in the undercover sting. Some of them face felony charges.
“They know the game, they know what they’re doing,” said Lt. Kaskey.
Officials say these licenses are required to protect the homeowner.
“It ends in projects not being done correctly, permits not being pulled and shoddy craftsmanship,” said Lt. Kaskey.
The homeowner could also be liable if someone is hurt on the job.
Tom Jackson with Jackson & Associates says there are questions homeowners should ask before hiring a contractor.
“‘Where is your license? Can I see a copy of your license? Do you have a certificate of insurance for liability? Do you have a certificate of insurance for your worker’s comp?'” said Jackson
Jackson says homeowners should really do their homework beyond just the price, because there are people who will take advantage of you.
“Ignorance of the law is no excuse. I think people know that they are doing this incorrectly. I think a lot of them know that they need to be licensed and have permits and I really think its up to the consumer to be able to know what questions to ask,” said Jackson.
Sarasota County has some helpful information:
When do I need a Building Permit?
1. Any construction which alters the size or occupancy of a building
2. Construction, alteration, or replacement of any exterior walls
3. Enclosing existing carports, porches and screen rooms for any purpose
4. Construction of any raised deck, attached or detached, with or without a roof.
5. Replacement of columns, beams, joists, rafters or any other structural component
6. Replacement of wall, floor, or roof sheathing
7. Repair and replacement of interior or exterior stairs and/or guardrails
8. Electrical, plumbing, or air-conditioning when altering, adding to, or deleting from the system
9. Interior load bearing and non load bearing walls, alterations or replacements
10. Replacement of windows, doors, garage doors or skylights in existing or altered wall openings
11. Hurricane shutters, all types. Electric permit also required for power operated units
12. Roofing, replacement of any roofing component.
13. Masonry or engineered Styrofoam privacy walls or fences with any masonry components
14. Dock, Boat-lift, Seawall, or Bulkhead installation or repair
15. Fire repairs of any type or scope
16. Storage or utility sheds, all types, all materials, and all sizes
17. Motorized or electric gates
18. Chickee and Tiki Huts
19. Decks, whether raised or on grade, on businesses
20. Stucco over wood frame
21. Drywall removal & replacement (3 sheets or more)
22. Accessory structures for mobile homes
When is a permit not required?
1. Painting (Except when advertised as water proofing)
2. Wall paper and other wall coverings (Except assembly, day care and institutional occupancies)
3. Floor and wall tile
4. Rugs or carpeting
5. Replacing kitchen cabinets (Except when altering, adding to or deleting electrical, plumbing or air-conditioning from the system)
6. Replacement of fascia and soffit (1 & 2 Family Dwellings only) (Existing structure only)
7. Non-structural siding placed over existing siding/sheathing (1 & 2 Family Dwellings only.)
8. Decks and patios directly on grade and without footings (Any material, 1 & 2 family residences only) 9. Small, incidental roof leak repair (1 Square and $500 or less.)
10. Non-residential farm buildings on working farms (Must meet specific criteria and be approved by the building and zoning officials to be exempt.)
11. Window/door change outs and re-roofing permits are no longer required for residential mobile/manufactured homes, effective March 1, 2013. (All work must still be performed by a licensed contractor)
12. Residential home alarms (wired or wireless)
“When Floridians need to make improvements or repairs to their home, they deserve to have the confidence that the work will be done honestly, completely, and according to professional standards that are designed to protect them and their families,” said DBPR Secretary Halsey Beshears.
“I appreciate the hard work of our state and local partners in Operation Hammer Down whose support helps bring both enforcement and awareness to this important public concern.”
Florida law establishes rules and guidelines for obtaining professional licensure, and the people who have met these requirements are held to professional standards.
Consumers can verify licenses with the DBPR, by calling 850-487-1395, or downloading the free DBPR app.
To check a Sarasota County license, call the Customer Service and Permit Center at 941-861-6678 or 941-861-3029. To report someone you suspect is acting as an unlicensed contractor or performing work without a permit, call 941-861-5000.