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From Ken’s Pen Ken Bodwell – September 2011 Several months ago, I wrote about the efforts of Rocco DiBenedetto with All Air of South Dade and sixteen other Dade County air conditioning contractors to put pressure on the Dade County Building Officials to enforce the State of Florida licensed contractor law. Since that time, I have heard from both contractors and building officials from around Florida. Some of the feedback has been positive and other negative. Surprisingly, the feedback from the building officials has been overwhelmingly positive and surprised at the lack of attention given to this matter by the Dade Building Department. I have not heard from Dade County.
Dade County has long been known for its stringent permitting process and code enforcement. What has changed? So far, I cannot get a clear answer. Some speculation has been that a cut in the budgets has resulted in fewer resources. Others agree but add that these cuts should be offset by more aggressive enforcement. Whatever the case, the position of these contractors is that the citizens of Dade County are being put at risk and the attitude of contractors is shifting to “if they can get away with it, so can I”. From my prospective: That’s not healthy.
Recently in Polk County, there was a sting by the building department aimed at unlicensed contractor activity. Thankfully, there were no air conditioning contractors; however the electrical and plumbing trades along with general contractors were cited. This should be a warning to all contractors and a wake up call to Dade County officials that unlicensed activity is occurring …and having an EPA card is not being state licensed.
Let me reprint portions of the law and reach out to contractors across the state to report unlicensed activity. I recommend readers take a minute and log on to read the state statue:
Let me point out a couple of interesting items. Section one starts with
No Person Shall: (A)
Falsely hold himself or herself or a business organization out as a license certificate holder, or registrant. (B)
Falsely impersonate a certificate holder or registrant. (C)
Engage in business or act in the capacity of a contractor or advertise himself or herself or a business organization as available to engage in business or act in the capacity of a contractor without being duly registered or certified; I like these two because it demonstrates that the municipalities have the teeth. And again, in my experience, Dade County has been one of the toughest counties to pull a permit.
No Person Shall: (i)
Willfully or deliberately disregard or violate any municipal or county ordinance relating to uncertified or unregistered contractors. (2)(a)
Any unlicensed person who violates any of the provisions of subsection (1) commits a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083. Certainly at the state level, the DBPR cannot afford to provide enforcement, however at city or county level enforcement can be a source of revenue. I continue to question whether there is a training issue with building department officials. Speaking for air conditioning associations across Florida, we would be happy to sponsor training programs that would assist building departments in finding continuity in enforcement of the state building code.
In the July article, I mentioned Rocco’s frustration. His response was that his biggest complaint is that every time we pull a permit a portion of that fee goes to code enforcement. Each time any of us renews our license, a portion goes to code enforcement. If there is no enforcement why should I be charged for it?
Rocco went on to state that these unlicensed contractors can buy material at many of the supply houses and purchasing units on the internet is child’s play. The group has reached out to the supply houses and asked them to stop selling HVAC equipment and parts to the unlicensed contractor, but so far capturing market share remains the driving force in this economy.
The contractors and associations across Florida came together when the utility companies infringed on our businesses. Unlicensed activity offers that same infringement. I invite the associations across Florida to contact
We have over a million unemployed in Florida and many of them are from the construction industry. I understand they are doing unlicensed and unpermitted work to survive, so on one hand I applaud them for helping themselves. On the other hand, they are not doing the consumer or themselves any good if they are not complying with building codes or following quality installation guidelines. Licensing does more than just bring in fees to the state. The testing and the continuing education insure some level of competency … No doubt the system can be beat but who are we hurting? Certainly the consumer because they made an uninformed decision!
I leave you with this thought: Let your policy always be quality first!
[email protected] to begin discussions on how we can combine our efforts to assist local building departments in support of licensed contractors across Florida.