Before hurricane season heats up, many residents may be trying to check off home improvement/safety items on their to-do lists.

Amid reports of unlicensed contractors in the area, Osceola County urges residents to make sure contractors are qualified to perform requested work.

The Florida State Department of Business and Professional Regulation requires that contractors be licensed with the state as either certified contractors (statewide) or registered contractors (local). Areas of licensure include, but are not limited to, air conditioning, alarm systems, building, mechanical, plumbing, residential, roofing, sheet metal, and electrical.

Many unlicensed contractors do not carry any liability insurance, which could result in an owner who has hired that contractor being held personally liable for damages caused by their negligent work. If for example, an unlicensed contractor breaks a pipe that leads to water damage of a neighboring property, you can potentially be sued for damages.

A licensed contractor must put their license number in advertisements and carry general liability, property damage, and worker’s compensation insurance.

 Be wary of anyone who approaches you unsolicited or says they can perform home repairs at a discount with leftover supplies from another job. Consider it a warning sign if a contractor uses high pressure sales tactics.

Other red flags

• Unlicensed contractors will ask you to obtain the permit or advice you that you don’t need one. If you call the Osceola County Building Office (407-742-0200), the staff will be more than happy to advise you whether or not a permit is required for your particular job.

• Unlicensed contractors often will not provide the consumer with a written contract or guarantee.

• Unlicensed contractors will not have a valid contractor’s number on their contracts or advertisements.

• Unlicensed contractors often want to do the construction work on weekends.

• Unlicensed contractors may promise you a large discount if you sign up immediately.

• Beware if a contractor has a post office address with no street address, or gives a local motel as his address.

• Beware of people wanting to do a free home inspection. Always verify that they are a licensed contractor prior to allowing them to do such inspections.

• Beware of people soliciting to do a roof repair, asphalt or texture coating of driveways.

• Unlicensed contractors normally use unmarked vans or trucks.

• Often, unlicensed contractors will become abusive and threatening when you refuse to do business with them.

Do not give a deposit or sign a contract until you have confirmed that the contractor is licensed. Ask the contractor to leave the contract with you and come back the next day. This gives you the time to look it over without being pressured or intimidated.

Also, you can contact the Building Office if you suspect a possible problem.

Go to www.myfloridalicense.com and click “Verify a License” to check out a potential contractor. You can also file a complaint through the same link.

Residents can also file a complaint with the Osceola County Building Department at 407-742-0200.

Or contact the Sheriff’s Office (407-348-1100) or your police department if you suspect fraud.

For more information: www.osceola.org/agencies-departments/community-development/offices/building-office/brochures/what-do-when-hiring-contractor/five-steps-selecting-contractor.stml