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  • Writer's pictureDon Magruder

Licensed Contractor and Permit Offer Homeowner Protections

There are just some homeowners who do not want to follow the rules when it comes to construction projects, however, hiring a licensed contractor who permits the job is the basic rule of any construction project. The construction lien laws implemented by the State of Florida were done to protect the consumer, not the contractor. Yet, there is a belief by many homeowners that construction and lien laws were only adopted to charge fees and slow down projects. The most important aspect to understand about these laws is that if you don’t follow them, you and your project are financially at risk, and you will have little recourse if the contractor fails to perform.

Why should you hire a licensed contractor? First, it is the right thing to do. A licensed contractor is trained and certified by the state to do the job correctly, and they can lose their license if they are caught doing something unethical, unsafe, or in poor quality. A contractor’s license is very important, and few want to risk losing it.

A licensed contractor understands construction law, and they will usually ensure that proper protocols for buying and paying for materials and subcontracting services are followed to prevent liens on the homeowner’s property. On the other hand, an unscrupulous or unlicensed contractor may not pay for materials or services, which could force the homeowner to pay twice for their job to prevent a lien and foreclosure. It is imperative that homeowners get lien waivers showing full payment for work and materials used on their job prior to making a final payment to the contractor.

Additionally, an unlicensed contractor is not accountable to anyone unless he is caught by local government officials or the state. The legal system will offer you little help regarding non-performance or payment issues, and normally lawsuits backfire on the homeowner if proper permitting and construction to code are not done. Hiring an unlicensed contractor can be costly.

Completing a structure construction project with no permit is about as bad as hiring an unlicensed contractor. Not every job must be permitted, and generally cosmetic work on the home does not require a building permit. However, when structural or mechanical work of any significance is being done on the home, a permit is usually required. When a job is not permitted, that typically infers the contractor is cutting code corners to save money and worse yet, working for cash to avoid paying taxes.

Sure, permitting a job may cost a couple of hundred dollars and require some paperwork hassles, but in return you have a record of the work being done on your property. Right now, in the state of Florida there are hundreds of homes going on the market for sale which have roofs that were installed without a permit. The problem is, without a permit there is no official record the work was done. This will negatively impact the cost of homeowner’s insurance and will also make it difficult to prove to the potential buyer that the roof was replaced. Without proof the work was officially done you may be required to replace a roof again in order to sell the home. Permitting after the fact normally costs double, as well as a lot of extra work to verify wind mitigation codes. Permits are your source to verify the work was done and completed correctly- not the receipt from your local supplier.

The other important fact about permitting is that the government requires the contractor and homeowner to use Florida-Approved materials since most of the state is a hurricane, high-wind area. Failure to use Florida-Approved materials for a structural project can result in the non-approved material being ripped out of the project before a proper permit could be issued. Once again, the homeowner could pay twice. Permitting was implemented for the protection of the homeowner to ensure the job is done correctly. By not getting proper permitting, the homeowner is inviting poor quality work.

No one likes paying for permits, filling out government forms, or being subjected to the rules of the Florida Building Code, but not following or ignoring the law is worse. Too many times homeowners focus on the few dollars of savings upfront rather than the potential huge financial risk on the backend.

Always hire licensed contractors and pull permits on any construction project that mandates a permit. Protect yourself!

Don Magruder is the CEO of Ro-Mac Lumber & Supply, Inc., and he is also the host of the “Around the House” Show which can be seen at AroundtheHouse.TV.

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