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Tornado aftermath: beware of unlicensed contractors

By Staff | Jan 13, 2016

Homeowners trying to recover from Saturday’s tornado should be wary of unlicensed contractors.

At about 6:45 p.m., an EF2 tornado with winds peaking at 132 mph touched down in the area along Beach Parkway, between Pelican Boulevard and Sands Boulevard. While no deaths or serious injuries were reported, one home was destroyed and 19 others suffered major damage, according to officials.

As affected residents pick up the pieces, authorities warned that they may be approached by people claiming to be contractors and offering to make repairs to their storm-damaged home for a price.

“Don’t be afraid to ask, ‘Are you licensed?'” Bill Johnson Jr., executive director of the Cape Coral Construction Industry Association, said. “Disasters can bring the worst out of the woodwork.”

Only hire individuals who are properly licensed, bonded and insured.

For example, a couple hires an unlicensed contractor to simply cut and clear damaged trees from their property. He explained that if the individual falls or gets injured, the homeowners are now liable.

If the individual performs actual repair work on the home, such as plumbing, electrical or roofing, the homeowner will not know if it was done correctly. It could lead to other problems down the road.

“You’re talking about major components to someone’s house,” Johnson said.

He recommended that residents ask if the person is licensed and ask to see the license.

“That’s the No. 1 question,” Johnson said.

Ask if they have done work in the area before and ask for names and address of past customers.

“If they are legitimate, they’re not going to have an issue providing that,” he said.

Another red flag is if the individual asks for partial or full payment up front without doing any work.

“It would be a normal business transaction,” Johnson said.

Some licensed contractors, however, will also drive around offering their services.

“If they can’t produce those documents, then nine times out of 10 you don’t want them working on your home,” he said.

Resources are available to help homeowners locate legitimate contractors.

“Reach out to the city, reach out to us or the Chamber of Commerce of Cape Coral,” Johnson said.

Homeowners can also verify licenses by contacting the city’s Licensing Division at City Hall at (239) 574-0432 or by visiting the state of Florida’s website online at: www.myflorida.com.

“These storms will tend to bring people in from out of the area that are trying to make a quick buck,” he said.

Anyone approached by an unlicensed contractor is urged to report the incident to the Cape police by calling (239) 574-3223.

The Cape Coral Police Department is at 1100 Cultural Park Blvd.

The CCCIA can be reached at (239) 772-0027 or online at: www.cccia.org.