Q: How can I check if a contractor's license is valid? Can I find out if there are complaints against him/her?
A: Contractors must be licensed either by the state or the county in which they do business. To find out if your contractor is licensed by the state or county and get a complaint history, call or search the websites of the agencies listed below. You'll need the contractor's license number, which should be prominently displayed on your estimate/contract and on the company's advertising materials and trucks.
Miami-Dade Building Code Compliance, 140 W. Flagler St., suite 1603, downtown Miami, 305-375-2901, www.miamidade.gov/buildingcode.
Broward Building Code Services, 955 S. Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale, 954-765-4400, www.broward.org/building
State-licensed contractors answer to the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) in Tallahassee, 850-487-1395, www.myfloridalicense.com.
Q: Several months ago, I gave a contractor a deposit, but he hasn't begun work and doesn't return my calls. I'm afraid I've lost my money. Is there any recourse?
A: Direct your complaint to the agency that licenses the contractor. It will be able to mediate and, if restitution is due, assist in obtaining it. Licensing authorities also have the power to discipline contractors with fines or license suspension or revocation.
According to Florida Statute 489.126, a contractor who receives an initial payment of at least 10 percent of the contract must:
Apply for necessary permits within 30 days after initial payment, except in cases that don't require a permit, and
Start the work within 90 days after the date all necessary permits, if any, are issued. These requirements apply unless the customer agrees, in writing, to a longer time frame.
View the full text of the statute at www.flsenate.gov, or call the State Division of Statutory Revision at 850-488-8403.
If your contractor fails to show up for work for 60 days after permits are pulled, send a certified letter requesting performance within 30 days. If the contractor doesn't respond within those 30 days, the law assumes there was intent to defraud. And if the contractor owes you $500 or more in work, he or she could be guilty of felony theft.