5 Signs You’re Dealing with an Unlicensed Contractor

If your home comfort system stops working, there is usually no time to spare when finding somebody to repair or replace it. However, this haste can leave homeowners vulnerable to the predatory practices of unlicensed contractors who advertise low prices, but lack the experience, training and accountability to do the job correctly.

To help prevent homeowners from being taken advantage of, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation partners with the State Attorney’s office to prosecute unlicensed contractors, resulting in criminal charges or steep fines being levied against offenders.

But, even with heightened enforcement from these agencies, homeowners must still be cautious when choosing a contractor to work on their unit because the Florida DBPR has no authority to order an unlicensed person to refund your money.

Recognizing these common signs that an HVAC contractor is unlicensed can help protect your home and your wallet from most damage.

They do not include a license number in their advertisements

Licensed contractors are required by law to include their license number on all of their advertising media and printed materials. Additionally, many states require the contractor’s license number on their work vehicles along with their business name and address. When companies don’t adhere to this regulation, it’s typically because they have something to hide.

They require a large down payment

When using a licensed, reputable contractor, there should be no more than 10 percent of the total cost or up to $1,000 put down before the work has begun. Most often, the full balance is due when the work is completed and you are satisfied with the job. You should also be wary if a contractor asks for money on multiple occasions during the early stages of work.

They are unwilling to put all the terms in writing

If your contractor seems reluctant to enter into a written agreement, that is a huge red flag. Verbal agreements leave room for misunderstandings about the scope of the project. To ensure you are protected if you are unsatisfied with the outcome of the work done on your HVAC unit, always secure a written contract with your contractor.

They cannot provide proof of insurance

Nearly all homeowner insurance policies exclude coverage for property damage or personal injury liability where the work of a tradesman is involved. Tradesmen are required to carry Business Liability and Workers’ Compensation insurance. Most unlicensed contractors cannot afford to purchase this protection, so you will be left to cover the costs if they do unsatisfactory work or damage anything in your home in the process. Ask to see their proof of insurance before they begin any work on your home comfort system.

They ask you to pay in cash

Another sign that you may be getting swindled by an unlicensed contractor is that they ask you to pay them in cash. After your HVAC service is completed, licensed contractors typically require payment by credit card or a check that is made payable to the business—not an individual.

Watching for these signs, as well as conducting thorough research and reading reviews and referrals online, will help you avoid having your home comfort system ruined by the wrong contractor. Still, there is always a risk when hiring somebody for the first time, so homeowners must be vigilant in protecting themselves and utilize the safeguards put into place by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

To verify a contractor’s license or report the unlicensed activity of a contractor, visit the Florida DBPR website at www.myfloridalicense.com.

If you are looking for a reliable, licensed HVAC contractor, contact Barineau Heating and Air Conditioning at 866-929-4029 for all of your home comfort system needs.

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