The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation now offers a way for you to report unlicensed business activity in real time.
That kind of activity isn't just unlicensed, it's illegal. And a new app function allows Floridians to instantly report violators.
"If they're approached by someone who wants to do work for them and they ask them for a license and they can't provide the number, then they can report it right away," said Tom Stephens, of the Better Business Bureau. "It makes it easier, so it's a great idea."
Consumers can submit complaints of unlicensed activity with descriptions and pictures directly from mobile devices, and the complaint information is sent to the department's headquarters in real time.
From air conditioning repairmen to roving roof fixers, reports of unlicensed activity to the department aid the division in carrying out more well-organized and successful sting operations.
"Unlicensed contractor activity is a real major problem," Stephens said. "It's bad for the homeowners. It's bad for the people who have the work done. And it's bad for legitimate businesses because they have competition from people who aren't doing what they're supposed to do."
There are many ways an unlicensed business could hurt you.
"No. 1, they haven't passed any kind of proficiency test or or that sort of thing, so they may or may not have any clue about what they're doing," Stephens said. "The second thing is, if you use an unlicensed contractor, you don't have protection of the state Construction Guarantee Fund that you get when you use a licensed contractor."
Stephens said about 10 contractors are arrested statewide each week. Before you hire a contractor, you should ask for the person's license number and make sure they're bonded.
"If they're a contractor, all of their bids, all the proposals, everything in writing is supposed to have a license number printed on it," Stephens said. "So you can check with the DBPR on their website and check to see if the license is current."
The app is free to download and is available on the iTunes and Google Play app stores.