Hurrican Shutters

Installing "Peace of Mind"

Hurricane Preparedness: Lining up your contractors

Posted by cat5shuttersllc on August 16, 2012

Hurricane Preparedness: Lining up your contractorsLicensed, insured, and in business
Professional licensing is a means by which the state of Florida regulates professionals who can cause harm through the malpractice and misconduct of their trades. Some of the diverse professionals regulated by professional licensing are CPAs, realtors, architects, and contractors. Many construction tradespeople are regulated because their work, if performed incorrectly, can cause fire, flood, and collapse. But, because not every construction tradesperson requires a professional license, verifying his or her compliancy with these laws is a two-step process. First, you need to determine if the contractor’s trade is regulated by licensing. Second, if licensing is required, you need to verify that the contractor’s license is current and active. This information is readily available in the database maintained by Florida’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR). To help ensure that you navigate to the state website, use the words “State of” in your search term. For example, the search terms “State of Florida DBPR” and “State of Florida contractor licensing” will prioritize DBPR as a search return. Once you navigate to DBPR’s website, you will see a link titled “Verify a License.” To determine what trades are regulated by professional licensing, click the dropdown menu under “License Type.” If a contractor requires licensing, you can then enter his or her name into the database to determine the license status. License complaints can also be viewed.

Contractor insurance can also protect you from the harm that can befall you from unqualified practitioners. In construction, workers’ compensation insurance and general liability insurance are essential. A major difference between the two is that workers’ compensation covers the employees of a company while general liability covers the public affected by a company’s operation. In addition to personal injury, property damage may also be covered in a general liability policy. Because both types of claims can be costly, you must verify that a contractor has insurance and that the policy limits and terms are acceptable. Analysis of policies is best handled by your insurance agent, who will understand your business circumstances, as well as the complexities of insurance. But, you may want to perform some preliminary research before the experts step in. Using the Internet, you can verify a contractor’s workers’ compensation coverage with Florida’s Division of Workers’ Compensation. Authorized workers’ compensation exemptions can also be verified. This information is contained in a database that is readily marked and easy to use. To reach the state website, use a concise and accurate search term such as “State of Florida Worker’s Compensation.”

In contrast to workers’ compensation information that you can access through state government sources, you will need to verify the contractor’s general liability coverage with his or her insurance agent. You must request that the contractor have his or her agent mail you a certificate of insurance. This certificate contains important information about policy limits and special conditions, and it must be reviewed by your agent to ensure that you are adequately protected. For example, your agent can request that the certificate show if there are any exclusions, such as property damage, under the products/completed operations coverage form, as well as any exclusions related to uniquely hazardous construction activities, such as demolition. Your agent should explain the benefits of being listed as an “additional insured.” Although the government websites provides sound information about contractor insurance, frequent and comprehensive communication with your agent is essential.

Florida’s Secretary of State office has the important role of maintaining records. The Division of Corporations is a division with this office, and it maintains a business’s filings. The types of business entities include corporations, limited liability companies, partnerships, and sole proprietors doing business under an assumed, fictitious name. Because it is highly recommended that you contract with a business, in contrast to a person, you should ensure that the contractor’s company is in good standing with the state. In addition to verifying that the company is active, you can also view the date of registration to determine how long the company has been in business. Officers, directors, and registered agents are listed here.

Because owning a business and successfully running it are two separate matters, you may find the information held at the Building Departments useful. Building Departments are the state’s first line of defense against unlicensed and non-code-compliant work. Not only can the Building Department help you determine if a contractor meets the state’s requirements for licensing and insurance, it may also maintain a permit database that show the contractor’s customers and the inspection results. The Building Department may also have the blueprints and site plans used to construct your facility. If you are planning to alter your existing building, these documents may be helpful.

Qualifications and character
In addition to confirming that the contractor meets Florida’s requirements for contracting, it is also important that he or she meet certain standards of personal integrity. This is especially important when there are no state licensing and insurance regulations in place for the contractor’s trade. For example, Florida’s DBPR does not issue professional licenses to painters, flooring installers, and other tradesmen. Although referrals and references are essential (because you want an experienced contractor with a successful track record,) legal records can provide insight into a person’s possible criminal and civil offenses, such as fraud, drug abuse, and theft.

The Clerk of Court Office is the government office that performs court-related duties, such as the docketing and maintaining of civil and criminal records. Documents such as deeds, tax warrants, and claims of lien may also be recorded by the clerk’s office or at a separate office, such as the recorder’s or comptroller’s office. To get a general impression about a contractor’s legal history, you can read the docket entries, if records exist. To do a comprehensive search, look for records in the counties where the contractor works, lives, and maintains an office. You should also search using the contractor’s personal name and business name. When reviewing any legal information, strive for fairness and accuracy. Because legal information is often complex, you may want to seek counsel from an attorney.

Hope for the best, but plan for the worst
As with any undertaking, preparedness improves your chances of success. When you are prepared, you can act purposefully and in a timely manner. Without forethought, your efforts are likely to be inefficient and can waste time and money. Finding qualified contractors to repair or remodel your building is a focused process that takes time to do properly. It is not a task to undertake when an emergency is at hand. With qualified contractors ready to go and an inclusive scope of work to guide them, your projects are more likely to be done correctly, on time, and on budget, even following a disaster.

Distributed by Viestly

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