Operation Freelancer Unlicensed Contractors
In 1990, Broward County Commissioners approved a countywide unlicensed contractor program to reduce problems associated with construction work of unlicensed contractors. In brief, the unlicensed contractor program states that any construction work performed in Broward County must be completed by a licensed contractor who has an up-to-date Broward County Certificate of Competency (license) or a State of Florida license.
There are many concerns with the use of unlicensed contractors which ultimately affect you, the consumer. Hiring an unlicensed contractor is a choice made by you, therefore you are held accountable for all outcomes associated with the contractor’s work. Using an unlicensed contractor often leads to unsafe and hazardous construction and additional costs.
The use of an unlicensed contractor may result in the following problems:
Inability to Receive Inspections: In order to apply for a building permit from any building department in Broward County, a contractor must have a valid license. Failing to get required permits will result in jobs being performed without inspections. Such unauthorized construction leaves you with no guarantee as to whether the construction was performed correctly and is safe.
Failure to Meet Florida Building Code Standards: Unlicensed contractors can’t apply for a building permit therefore their construction work cannot be reviewed or inspected. This eliminates the opportunity to ensure that the work meets Florida Building Code (FBC) requirements. Failure to meet FBC requirements may result in unsafe and hazardous conditions.
Substandard Workmanship: As unlicensed contractors do not go through the process of getting a license, they do not know required construction standards which are understood by licensed contractors. This leads to shoddy and substandard workmanship. The review of construction plans and inspections by building departments in Broward County provides that work has been performed correctly and meets the standards of the Florida Building Code.
Further Cost to You: The work of unlicensed contractors is often substandard and ultimately leads to costly repairs and corrections that require services of a licensed contractor. You may pay more money for the job than if you had initially hired a licensed contractor.
Fraud and Exploitation: The continued hiring of unlicensed contractors encourages ”roving” unlicensed contractors who are involved in illicit construction practices. These contractors embark on work throughout the county, often taking money for jobs that are never started, not completed or are poorly constructed. Ultimately, you incur the additional expense for such activities.
- Consumer Liability: You are responsible for the hiring of a contractor. Consequently, you are responsible for any damages and injuries incurred on the job site since unlicensed contractors often do not have general liability and workers’ compensation insurance.
Legal Action Against the Consumer: Since you are held responsible for hiring an unlicensed contractor, you run the risk of being involved in legal action. This legal action may involve lawsuits from various parties due to the unauthorized construction work, thus incurring further cost.
- Code Enforcement Fines: Hiring an unlicensed contractor violates Florida Building Code requirements. This may subject you to fines and the possibility of facing a quasi-judicial hearing in front of a Hearing Officer.
To verify an active Broward County Contractor license holder, click here.
To verify an active State of Florida Contractor license holder, click here.
To verify an active Miami-Dade County Contractor license holder, click here.
To verify an active Palm Beach County Contractor license holder, click here.
Operation Freelancer Unlicensed Contractors
NEWS RELEASE 18-125
The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office arrested twelve people on multiple charges during Operation Freelancer VII, an investigation to protect citizens from unlicensed contractors.
Detectives worked with the Sarasota County Building Department, the Florida Department of Financial Services Division of Insurance Fraud and the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) to contact individuals advertising home repair services that require a license to complete. As individuals arrived at the predetermined residence, the DBPR database was checked to determine if they were licensed, registered as a contractor, and/or required workers compensation coverage or exemption to perform the work they proposed to do.
In all, the operation resulted in 12 felony charges and 12 misdemeanor charges. Those arrested have a total of 33 prior felony and 33 misdemeanor charges as well as a combined 37 convictions. Two of the defendants, David Pond and Kim Bachert have prior charges for Unlicensed Contracting. Another, Nathan Poor, has charges dating back to 2006 for Domestic Battery, Resisting Arrest and Scheme to Defraud. The following individuals were arrested during the three-day operation:
- David Mackey, DOB 06/30/67, of 3016 17th St.,Sarasota
- Haralambos Maginas, DOB 09/19/87, of 1551 North Tuttle Ave.,Sarasota
- Steven Leimbach, DOB 02/24/79, of 123 Loquat Lane,Sarasota
- Matthew King, DOB 11/25/62, of 103 North Portia St.,Nokomis
- David Pond, DOB 10/10/73, of 15790 Highbell Place,Bradenton
- Nora Nowicki, DOB 10/04/68, of 3144 Courtland St.,Sarasota
- Kim Bachert, DOB 05/20/51, of 269 Bearded Oaks Drive,Sarasota
- Jarret Dempsey, DOB 01/10/78, of 4410 19th St. Circle W., Unit B,Bradenton
- Carlos Asiain-Hernandez, DOB 08/19/85, of 4605 Flatbush Avenue,Sarasota
- Sergey Kurbatov, DOB 03/20/70, of 7351 Perennial Road, NorthPort
- Nathan Poor, DOB 01/31/69, of 2713 Robinson Avenue,Sarasota
- Richard Mitchell, DOB 08/15/54, of 3205 Henrietta Place, Sarasota
Since 2012, the sheriff’s office has assigned detectives to investigate claims against people who engage in contracting work without proper licenses, permits or certification. A first offense usually results in a civil citation by code enforcement but subsequent violations lead to misdemeanor or felony criminal charges. The defendants also receive a cease and desist order from the State of Florida.
“Maintenanceoperationsliketheseshouldbeagoodreminderforconsumerstoalwaysseek licensed contractors to perform work on theirhomes orbusinesses,”said SheriffTom Knight. “Consumers are exposing themselves to financial and physical risk by allowing these people to enter their home, unlicensed, and in some cases, with criminal histories. Let this be a warning to criminals who come into our community and illegally solicit services, that their behavior will not be tolerated.”
“For over five years, DBPR has partnered with the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office, the Florida Department of Financial Services Division of Insurance Fraud, and the Sarasota County Building Department to bring down unlicensed contractors in Florida,” said DBPR Secretary Jonathan Zachem. “This continued, strong partnership is integral to DBPR’s mission to protect the public from unlicensed contractors and to uphold the integrity of the construction profession.”
“The (MSBIA) Manatee-Sarasota Building Industry Association continues to applaud the efforts of Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight in the aggressive pursuit of unlicensed and unpermitted activity in Sarasota County,” said MSBIA CEO Jon Mast. “The actions of the Sheriff’s office helps to protect the health, safety and welfare of the community from unscrupulous handymen impersonating legitimate licensed contractors. By defending unsuspecting homeowners in this way proves the Sheriff is focused on protecting the citizens of Sarasota County from being robbed of their money, shoddy work and peace of mind.”
Florida law sets specific rules and guidelines for obtaining professional licensure, and the people who have met these requirements are held to professional standards. Consumers can verify licenses with the DBPR online at www.myfloridalicense.com, by calling 850-487-1395, or downloading the free DBPR Mobile app through iTunes or the Google Play store.
To check a Sarasota County license, call the Customer Service and Permit Center at 861-6678 or 861-3029. To report someone you suspect is acting as an unlicensed contractor or performing work without a permit, call 861-5000. For more information visit https://www.scgov.net/DevelopmentServices/Pages/ContractorLicensing.aspx.
If you are an unlicensed contractor and need assistance getting legal, call 954-210-3030