Tips to Avoid Florida Home Repair Scams After Hurricane Ian

Hurricane Ian left parts of Florida’s west coast underwater and unrecognizable.

While organizations are already fundraising assistance to help the thousands of Floridians affected by the deadly storm, expect a long road to recovery. People will need to rebuild homes and businesses, and it probably won’t be long before a wave of contractors descends on Southwest Florida’s hurricane zone.

This means that people will have to be on the lookout for scammers and contractors who aren’t qualified to fix their homes.

While they’re not foolproof, here are some tips to help you avoid getting scammed:

Before requesting a quote

Contact your insurance to make sure the repairs you need are covered. Then check to see if Florida requires contractors to have a license for the work you want to do. Contractors need a state license for roofing, air conditioning, and plumbing, for example, but not to remove debris, fallen trees, or to install cabinets, wood, or tile.

Keep in mind that Florida requires different licenses depending the type of work the contractor will do. If you need a new roof, find a contractor with a roofing license. Need to install or repair electrical wiring? You will need a licensed electrician.

READ MORE: Are you hiring a contractor to repair your home? How to Check License and Complaints in Florida

Check a contractor’s license

Licensed contractors have met a list of county and state requirements that show they know how to do the job properly. Licensed contractors must also have insurance and are regulated by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

Offers in Florida two types of licenses: registration and certification.

Registered contractors can only work in cities or counties that have granted them a contract license. A registered contractor in Lee County, for example, may not have a license to perform contract work in Collier County.

Certified contractors, on the other hand, are allowed to work anywhere in the state.

To verify a contractor’s license, visit www.myfloridalicense.com or call 850-487-1395. You can also download the Department for Business and Professions Regulation mobile app. This is also how you can check for any complaints.

READ NEXT: Beware of Scams, Be Patient, and Other Tips for Filing Hurricane Ian Insurance Claims

Watch out for red flags

The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation has a list of red flags to watch out for when looking for a contractor.

These warning signs include:

Advertising without license number.

Wanting all or most of the money up front and cash only. The person may also ask you to “write the check to them individually or ‘cash’ it.”

Give a PO box address instead of a civic address.

Trying to convince yourself that a permit is not necessary or that it will cost you less to obtain the permit yourself.

Avoid giving you a written contract.

If the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Be sure to compare quotes from multiple contractors.

And remember, even if contractors say they are licensed, do your homework.

Check their license, if they have any complaints, and search online to see what results show up. If you’re thinking of hiring a company to repair your home, check their rating with the Better Business Bureautoo.

This story was originally published October 3, 2022 10:15 a.m.

There’s never a dull moment in Florida – and Michelle covers it as a Realtime/Breaking News reporter for the Miami Herald. She graduated with honors from Florida International University, where she served as editor of Student Media PantherNOW. Previously, she worked as a news editor at WSVN Channel 7 and was a 2020-2021 Poynter-Koch Media & Journalism Fellow.