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Official: Unlicensed contractors emerge during tough times; Cuts to workers’ comp

By Staff | Oct 1, 2008

Cape Coral homeowners, already under pressure from a tight economy locally and nationally, could encounter another problem, if they have not already — unlicensed contractors.

Unlicensed contractors who are hired to do any number of home repairs from door jambs to rooftops can leave homeowners liable for injuries incurred by workers who are not officially on the contractor’s payroll and do not have worker’s compensation insurance.

“With the economy the way it is, there are a lot less contractors out there, and the ones that are hanging on are cutting corners, and one of the ways they do that is by workers’ comp,” Carol Porter, an investigator supervisor for the state of Florida, said Tuesday to a gathering of contractors hosted by the Cape Coral Construction Industry Association at Palmetto Pines.

While many unlicensed contractors pop up in the aftermath of disasters such as hurricanes, the city’s director of the Department of Community Development, Carl Schwing, likened the current economic crisis to Hurricane Charley– and one unlicensed contractors are all too willing to take advantage of.

“We’re looking at a situation that could be just as damaging to us financially as Charley,” Schwing said. “After Charley we had an onslaught of outsiders coming in, and I’m not just talking about outside Cape Coral or Lee County, but outside the state of Florida, to do the work — poorly — and get out.”

Shoddy workmanship is another common characteristic of unlicensed contractors, one homeowners have no protection against.

“People don’t understand that they have work done now and two years down the road it floods their house, they have no recourse,” said Neida White, owner of Dave’s Sprinkler Repair.

Licensed contractors who play by the rules and pay licensing, workers’ compensation and other fees say the contractors who cut corners are able to provide cheaper bids.

“They are able to undercut our bids by as much as 20 to 30 percent,” said Tori Gansen, chief operations officer of Kirkwood Electric.

Homeowners can visit: “http://www.myfloridalicense.com”>www.myfloridalicense.com to verify a contractor’s license.

“It’s updated daily,” Sergio Gonzalez, regional program administrator for the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, said of the list of licensed contractors on the Web site. “The moment we issue a license, it goes up there immediately.”