If you want to check out a contractor before pouring money into home protection, there are county and state offices available to help.
If you end up researching contractors after the storm, be aware that damage may make information harder to access, but the following tips still apply:
■ Contractors must be licensed by the state or by the county, and they should show you their “certificate of competency” license from the state or county where they are doing work.
■ Contractors’ license numbers should be displayed in all advertising. That certificate is a wallet-sized ID with the person’s name, business name and license number, said Mike Ossorio, Collier’s contract licensing supervisor.
There is no “handyman” license, and an occupational license isn’t enough, Ossorio said.
There is no longer a maintenance license. But a company offering maintenance must have a county business tax receipt, which allows for less than $1,000 of inconsequential work. For work such as hurricane shutters, renovations or other changes, a contractor license is required.
“Before you hire anyone, you want to call or look on our website to see if it’s a registered company, see how many permits they’ve pulled and see if there are any complaints,” Ossorio said.
County staff recommends avoiding deposits of more than 10 percent unless the contract specifies when the job is to be completed.
Get a certificate of completion and a final contractor affidavit before making the final payment, Ossorio said.
Collier residents, including those in Naples and Marco Island, can look up licenses, building permits and complaints for contractors licensed by the state and county by calling (239) 252-2431 or (239) 252-5607.
There also is a contractor license lookup online at: http://apps2.colliergov.net/webapps/vision/ConCert/default.aspx.
Clues your contractor may be unlicensed:
1. Displays only an occupational license.
2. Only willing to work on weekends or after hours.
3. Requests a large down payment and often asks for money during construction.
4. The customer is asked to obtain the permit, or another person pulls the permit (unlicensed contractors can’t pull permits).
5. Unwilling to sign a written contract.
6. No proof of insurance.
7. Says the job doesn’t require a permit (for example, jobs over $2,500 require notice of commencement in Collier County, except those involving air-conditioning where the limit is higher at $7,500).
8. Asks for check to be made to an individual, not a company.
9. No license number on ads, vehicle, business cards, contracts or fliers.
To verify state and county licenses with the state’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation, call 850-487-1395 or visit www.MyFloridaLicense.com. To report unlicensed activity, call 1-866-532-1440.