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Choosing a contractor for a construction project may be intimidating, so here are some tips to help with the selection. It is important to understand that a contractor is a specific person and not a company, although contractors will often be associated with a company name.

Construction Contractors can be licensed either by the state of Florida or by Escambia County.  All contractors need to be registered with Escambia County Building Inspections regardless of state or county license.

  • State Licensed Contractors  – Search for a state issued license. 
  • County Licensed Contractor  Search for a county issued registration/license. All contractors need to be registered with Escambia County Building Inspections regardless of state or county license.
  • Architects & Engineers – Search for a state issued license. Note that architects and engineers are NOT required to register with Escambia County.
  • Propane Gas Contractors – Propane gas contractor do not register with Escambia County Building Services. Licensed plumbing contractors are allowed to do propane gas work as well as natural gas. There is no online search capability. Call 1-850-921-1600, option 2 for licensing.
  • Fire Sprinkler Contractors – Are licensed by State Fire Marshal’s office only. They are also required to register with Escambia County. 

Tips on choosing a contractor:

  • Ask to see their license and call the appropriate licensing agency – Escambia County Contractor Licensing Section for a county license or DBPR for state license to verify the status and insurance.
  • Ask for and verify references from past customers.
  • Check with the local Better Business Bureau
  • Get a written estimate from several licensed contractors. Be sure that the estimate includes all work to be done by the contractor, the materials involved, date of completion and the total cost.
  • Don't simply take the lowest bid. An abnormally low bid could lead to trouble later on. 
  • If the project is for repairing damage, check with your insurance company before you sign a contractor to verify that your insurance will cover the repairs.
  • An occupational license is not sufficient in the construction trades.
  • Beware of alleged contractors who ask to be paid in cash or ask for large payments up front.

After you choose a contractor:

  • Make sure your contractor obtains a permit and posts it on the front of the property.
  • Once you're happy with the quote, get job details, costs and payment schedule in writing before signing the final contract. 
  • Schedule payments at various stages of completion so you're not paying for work that hasn't been finished or isn't to your liking. 
  • If the contractor request a final payment before all final inspections are completed and the permit placard has been signed by the appropriate inspectors, request that he/she obtains all final inspections prior to your final payment. However, you must abide by your contract.
  • Keep records of all paperwork, including quotes from the contractor and receipts for completed work. 
  • Make sure your contractor provides you with releases of liens from his subcontractors and suppliers.

Before signing a contract, be certain your contract includes:

  • The contractor's name, street address, telephone number and state or local license number.
  • A precise description of the work to be completed, including a draw schedule and list of materials.
  • Completion date, including cleanup after work is finished.
  • Warranty agreements, including length, terms and recourse.
  • A notice of consumers' rights under the Florida Homeowners' Construction Recovery Fund for contracts involving general, residential and building contractors.
  • Read your contract carefully and personally fill in any blank spaces. Consider having an attorney review the contract. If you do not have an attorney, the Florida Bar offers lawyer referral services.

Beware of Fraudulent Contractors

  • If you are planning to build a new home, a room addition, add on a second story, begin remodeling on your home, or have work done that requires a building permit, take care to select a qualified person to perform the work. Under state and local ordinances, any person you hire under contract (verbal or written) to perform construction on your property must be a licensed contractor. The contractor must be state or county certified.  All printed advertising material such as business cards, newspaper ads and telephone book ads must show his or her state license number.
  • Beware of anyone who asks you to obtain the building permit as an "owner/builder." This may indicate that they themselves are not properly licensed to obtain the permit.
  • Beware of people who claim that you will save quite a bit of money by not obtaining a permit. A permit will only lead to compliance with the appropriate building codes; these are only minimum requirements.
  • Beware of anyone who makes a request for funds up front. Payment should only be for portions of work or services provided. 
  • Beware of someone who will not provide a contractor's license and only shows you a business license. Licensed contractors are required by law to include their license number in all advertising. 
  • Unlicensed contractors do not have insurance coverage. Any injury that occurs on your property will be a claim against your insurance.
  • If you wish to check on the license of an individual, you may call the Escambia County Contractor Licensing Section at 850-595-3550.

 If You Suspect Fraud
If you feel you've received faulty workmanship, you haven't received services or work you've already paid for, or you want to report an unlicensed contractor, you can file a complaint with Escambia County Building Services by calling 850-595-3550. 
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