If you are experiencing problems with your air conditioning system or are in need of new equipment, there is no substitute for having a licensed contractor look at it and perform a diagnosis.
As Florida grows . . . so does the practice of unlicensed contracting. The state has been inundated with non-professionals during the last several years and the problem continues to get worse.
Although the unlicensed contractor/servicer’s prices may look attractive at first glance there are serious pitfalls. When all things are considered, you could end up spending much more than the job was worth and in the end you will have no protection and little recourse.
Today’s professionally licensed air conditioning and heating contractor is controlled by Florida’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation. Certification and Registration is based on an examination of the Contractors level of competency. Financial stability and insurability of applicants is also reviewed by the Department. If Licensed Contractors act unethically they may be brought before the Construction Industry Licensing Board for discipline.
REASONS FOR AVOIDING UNLICENSED CONTRACTORS:
- Many are totally incompetent and lack the experience and training to do the job right. Their financial stability and longevity are questionable – in other words – will they be around in two months to warranty what they repair today?
- Many manufacturers will not honor their limited warranties on equipment that is installed by unqualified individuals – especially if it is incorrectly done.
- Since unlicensed contractors have no legal existence, they are not subject to regulation by the State and therefore are not subject to disciplines that could put them out of business. They are guilty of fraud and will only be prosecuted if the evidence is good enough. Should they damage you, restitution is more difficult when a prison term becomes the punishment.
- Unlicensed contractors cannot acquire a permit from the local building department, consequently, your job goes uninspected for code violations that may damage your property or threaten your life.
- Nearly all homeowner insurance policies exclude coverage for property damage or personal injury liability where the work of a tradesman is invited. Tradesmen are expected to carry Business Liability and Workers’ Compensation insurance. Most unlicensed contractors can’t purchase this protection leaving you exposed. Imagine the unlicensed contractor getting hurt on your property and suing you!
- According to Florida Statute 455.228 it is unlawful to employ an unlicensed contractor and violations are punishable by up to $5,000.00 and/or a year in jail.
Make sure you use an experienced, licensed professional for your air conditioning and heating needs. The small sums saved when using the unlicensed contractor are not worth the liabilities you gain.
A Contractor may not be Licensed if:
- Advertisements do not include the contractor’s license number.
- A large down payment is required before work begins.
- He or she makes numerous requests for money during the early phases of construction.
- You are asked to obtain the permit.
- You are informed that the job does not require a permit or inspection.
- The contractor is unwilling to put all of the terms in writing and prefers a verbal agreement.
- The contractor does not have proof of insurance.
- The contractor displays only an occupational license.
- The contractor won’t produce a copy of the Contractors Competency Certificate.
- The contractor prefers to work on weekends or after hours.
- You are told to make the check payable to an individual’s name or asked to make all payments in cash.
- There is neither a company name nor a license number on the construction vehicles.
- If you are unsure about a Contractor’s license status, call your local building department.
Some other things to keep in mind…
- Always get at least 3 estimates.
- Make sure the contractor does a thorough job in surveying your project and explaining their sales proposal.
- You should feel comfortable with the contractor you use. Ask him for past customer references and check them out. Be sure the references are not on jobs done just yesterday.
- Make sure everything you want or have been promised is “spelled out” on your contract proposal. Ask the contractors to do a “Manual J” Load Calculation on your home (this is the guaranteed difference between indoor and outdoor conditions).
- Do compare the differences in warranties and operating efficiency.
- If you can, don’t always let price be your guide. Cheapest is not always the best.
Finally, never make final payment before the work is satisfactorily completed. Avoid large down payments.
If you need more information, you can view our Consumer FAQ or contact us at 727-209-5745.