Category Archives: General Construction

Unlicensed & Uninsured Building Contractors in Florida

Unlicensed & Uninsured Building Contractors in Florida.

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Filed under Building Certification, Building Violations, General Construction, Renovations

Unlicensed & Uninsured Building Contractors in Florida

The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation often canvases emails to licensed professionals about their efforts to stop unlicensed activity. And, their effort, while not very effective has another big problem? Limited by a lack of funding which results in less enforcement and compliance, they often write about unlicensed activity and what consumers can do to protect themselves, they mention checking the contractor’s license of the person performing the work. They should also inform consumers that the company or person that they are entering into a contract with is the same person or company listed on the license. This is because an unlicensed contractor will have used another contractor’s license to pull the permit. This is illegal and is called aiding and abetting an unlicensed contractor. The DBPR should create a task force to not only educate the consumer but the local building departments as well.

I will give an example of a recent case where I was called because the contractor they hired was given a large amount of money to do a renovation to a condominium in Sunny Isles, Florida and never showed up to do the work. After meeting with the building department to see if a permit was obtained, sure enough; it wasn’t. To make things worse, when the lady at the counter asked the name of the contractor (American Contractors) she laughed and mentioned that she has herd of other cases in nearby buildings Oveanview Condominiums 1, 2 & 3, Park West & The Hemisphere Condominiums. This contractor was referred by a friend that lived in a condominium in Aventura, FL. I asked to see the contract and it stated “American Contractors” “Licensed and Insured” and it appeared to be hand written on a 2 part invoice and a scribbled signature that I could not make sense of.

The point of this blog is to make you aware of what to look for, let’s start with a few easy ones:
1. The proposal has to be typed on letter head bearing a physical license number.
2. Clearly states the name of the license holder
3. In my contracts, I always include a copy of my license and insurance. (This makes it easier to look-up the information i.e. license verification.
4. A construction schedule, preferably a Gantt Chart. If the contractor does not have a schedule or just throws out a date. Chances are, there is none?
Construction is no longer about the fancy truck or tool belt; we have subcontractors for this. It’s about management and complying with the technical aspects of construction. With the increased amount of codes being added every year; your contractor should be familiar with them. Because let’s face it – Building Inspectors are and will demand that not only the plans are being followed but the building codes as well.
Finally, if your contractor is not licensed then he is uninsured and if you signed a contract with a contractor that is using someone else’s license; it will be very hard to get your job done without costly delays.

Please post your comments, share & colaborate with others; GET INFORMED.

www.scavuzzoassoc.com

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Protecting Yourself against Unlicensed Contractors in Florida

I must run into two to three people a week that has hired a contractor and don’t even know if they are licensed or not. I have one such case where the contractor spells out in there hand written proposal “Licensed and Insured”. However, after questioning this contractor, it is found that he is not licensed as a Certified Contractor nor has any insurance. Without boring my readers with the details of the law which I have provided below, the simple question I get is: Why is the license or having insurance so important? Well, let me give an example of a typical scenery.

A Contractor is hired to do work for you, and in this example we will use a condominium as an example. And you have hired this contractor to do work where there will be multiple trades involved and the contract amount is about $100,000 worth of renovations. Moreover, this contractor asks for you to write the check to their personal name and later we will find the reason is because, the contractor  does not have a legal or registered corporation.

As obvious as this example is, most people fall into the same trap. Let’s say 95%

Let’s move on to the fun of construction, the materials are delivered to your condo unit, however, the granite walls in the lobby and elevator is damaged and now you have the property manager calling you. Once you get past that fiasco, one of the workers get injured by falling from a 10′ ladder and has to be taken to the hospital but the worker nor the contractor has any insurance let alone; workman’s comp. Well now you just became responsible for the hospital bill and a potential lawsuit from the family of the injured worker. And since the permit was signed as the Owner/Builder, and the city inspector is not satisfied with the work, another problem mounts to the others. And, to top it off; the contractor has not paid the workers/sub-contractors and now you have liens on top of that. A COMPLETE NIGHTMARE!!

I run into these cases every single day and my first reaction is? Did you not see this coming? No easy answer, but if you are going to go through the trouble of renovating or building; Get Informed! I don’t care what state or county you are building in, one thing is for sure, Con’s will be there. So you need to ask questions. If the person makes you feel the question you just asked is dumb or you just don’t know or understand construction. I guarantee you, they are hiding something. I spend a countless amount of time making sure that my clients are well aware of what they are getting into and answer as many questions and encourage them to email me as questions arise.

The days of a guy jumping out of a big Chevy Dully with the bright tool bin slung across the bed and a metal clip board eager to start the same day is gone. Most of those guys could not read or interpret the building codes let alone read a set of plans. And the metal clip board, that is to give the quote, ask for a large sum of money and be lucky if this person comes back to start the work within the month.

Here is how a typical construction payment schedule should look. First, get a detailed breakdown of the costs from the different trades. The Architect/Engineer is usually the ground level of the project. ONLY pay for the plans to start. Once a permit is obtained, a construction schedule and schedule of payments will go into effect. Have a penalty clause for not meeting the deadline in the separate intervals of construction. And, never, never give a down payment that is more than what is allowed in your state, most states are right around 20%.

HERE IS THE LAW

According to Florida Statute 455.228, if you hire an unlicensed contractor, the Department of Professional Regulations (D.P.R.) may issue a cease and desist order and also may take you to Circuit Court, which has the authority to impose a civil penalty of up to $5,000 for aiding and assisting unlicensed activity. You could also be liable for court cost.

• If you pull a permit for an unlicensed contractor, you are held responsible for the work, not the contractor.

• If you hire an unlicensed contractor, you may actually pay more for the job, than if you hired a licensed contractor. Especially, if the work is done incorrectly or never finished, you may have to pay twice or more for the same job to be corrected or finished.

• If the unlicensed contractor fails to pay his sub-contractors or suppliers, you may be required to pay them, even though you have already paid the contractor. • Plumbing, electrical, and heating and air conditioning, mold assessment/remediation work should be done only by contractors and craftsmen certified in those trades and may require separate permits.

• Home or Building improvement or Code Remediation contractors must be certified by the State of Florida as either a General, Building, or Residential contractor. • Roofing contractors are required to be certified or registered by the State.

• There is no such thing as a “legal” jack-of-all-trades.

• An “Occupational License” is not a regulatory license or a certificate of competency, but a tax for the privilege of engaging in or managing a business, profession or occupation.

• You may be held liable for injury on your property if the unlicensed contractor has no insurance or Workman’s Compensation.

The State of Florida is doing all it can to protect the public against illegal contractors by educating the public and offering the following suggestions. Watch for the following warning signs, these may indicate the person/company is not certified.

License information can be obtained from the D.B.P.R. web site:
http://www.myfloridalicense.com

Visit us at: http://www.scavuzzoassoc.com

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Fire Departments in the Building Violation Business?

Whether it’s a mezzanine or a missing extinguisher, Fire Departments around the country are on the hunt for building and code violations and they have added a built in feature; getting you to pay daily fines. Try to fight them? Not even a chance! With highly skilled and trained enforcement officers, most such as the Metro-Dade Fire Department are working hand-in-hand with the Neighborhood Code Compliance Office’s that has been recently revamped by Mr. Charlie Danger and these guys know exactly what to look for. Hiring a well-qualified Architect / Contractors office to mediate these infractions is probably the only and best defense to combat these inspectors because they will cite everything down to the old coffee machine that is plugged into a burned electrical wall outlet.

My partner and I spend countless hours at building departments trying to negotiate a reasonable and realistic settlements for our clients. Sounds easy? Well, not even close, especially, when they are trying to throw everything but the kitchen sink at you. They are trained to make you weak. And you say, “Is this the government agency and what we pay taxes for?” Well, the best answer is yes. Property taxes alone are not enough to pay the bills; commercial businesses have become the target for additional revenue to pay for the county’s earmarks (i.e. the baseball stadiums and waterparks, etc…).

The internal additive is, the bigger the violation the harder it is to satisfy within the allotted time given. This is where negotiating a reasonable settlement is the best way to meet the deadline. For instance, I will give an example of a simple small warehouse with an illegal mezzanine. The citation will read, “The mezzanine has to be removed, unsafe structure Florida Building Code; blah,blah” First thoughts are: “how about my offices below? That mezzanine has been there for 20 years! And, you’re only giving me how long to correct this”? Yes, and don’t forget, your displaced employees, loss of business and stress. Then you think, I’ll just talk to the inspector and see if I can sweet talk him or paperclip the 20 to the back of the driver’s license trick or I will file a complaint because the inspector was nasty to my employee. Folks, It does not work!

Remember, you are at the disadvantage and these inspectors will not chance losing their paycheck in this economy for you. And yes, unlike us, they get a paycheck once a week and your new founded problem is not their problem or even a hardship. Sounds harsh, but it’s true and as you can see, my job is not as easy as you would think but I do make my client problems my own and I immediately take ownership of the situation, meeting with the inspectors, drawing the plans and finally, getting our construction crew on site to ratify these issues so you can get back to work. I’m with you every step of the way; not a project manager.
Recently, I have met with condo association boards and it amazes me that Bob the cabinet maker that has been cited for building shelves that extend to the top of the warehouse, flammable glues that can set the entire building on fire and, Oh yes, not even one fire extinguisher in the entire facility. You know, the guy that does not even speak at the normal meetings or a simple hello while passing buy is the new leader of a complex that is riddled with code compliance issues and of course he knows the code and the first suggestion is: “Let’s sue the County, they can’t do this” After listening to this guy ramble for 20 minutes or so, I will ask, “What is your premise” Of course that went over his head but he is mad and wants justice.

Be careful with the Bob’s in your association that is ready to spend association funds to sue a county. And yes, it is ridiculous because cities and counties have attorneys too and will spend your tax dollars hiring other top law firms to defend them. The only thing an association can do legally together is, to hire an attorney to make sure your problem does not become theirs and as far as you hiring an attorney to sue? They will settle every time, unless of course, you have a lot of money to defend a case, in court, with a non-winning cast to prove a point. I cut through all of this aggravation and hone in one the resolution of the problem.
My name is Marc, my clients know me as the Fireman of Construction; I put out fires.
the kitchen sink at you. They are will trained to make you weak. And you say, “Is this government that I pay for?” Well, the best answer is yes. Property taxes alone do not pay the bills; commercial businesses have become the target for additional revenue to pay for the county’s earmarks (i.e. the baseball stadiums and waterparks).

The internal additive is, the bigger the violation the harder it is to satisfy within the allotted time. This is where negotiating a reasonable settlement is the best way to meet the deadline. For instance, I will give an example of a simple small warehouse with an illegal mezzanine. The citation will read, “The mezzanine has to be removed, unsafe structure Florida Building Code blah,blah” First thoughts are: “how about my offices below? That mezzanine has been there for 20 years! And, you’re only giving me how long to correct this”? Yes, and don’t forget, your displaced employees, loss of revenue and stress. Well, remember; these inspectors get a paycheck every week and your new problems are not a hardship.
As you can see my job is not as easy as you would think but I do make my client problems my own and I immediately take ownership of the situation, meet with the inspectors, draw the plans and get our construction crew on site to ratify these issues so you can get back to work.

Recently, I have met with condo association boards and it amazes me that Bob the cabinet maker that has been cited for building shelves that extend to the top of the warehouse, flammable glues that can set the entire building on fire and, Oh yes, not even one fire extinguisher in the entire facility. You know, the guy that does not even speak at the normal meetings or a simple hello while passing buy is the new leader of a complex that is riddled with code compliance issues and of course he knows the code and the first suggestion is: “Let’s sue the County, they can’t do this” After listening to this guy ramble for 20 minutes or so, I will ask, “What is your premise” Of course that went over his head but he is mad and wants justice.

Be careful with the Bob’s in your association that is ready to spend association funds to sue a county. And yes, it is ridiculous because cities and counties have attorneys too and will spend your tax dollars hiring other top law firms to defend them. The only thing an association can do legally together is, to hire an attorney to make sure your problem does not become theirs and as far as you hiring an attorney to sue? They will settle every time, unless of course, you have a lot of money to defend a case, in court, with a non-winning cast to prove a point. I cut through all of this aggravation and hone in one the resolution of the problem.

Our name is Marc & Mike Scavuzzo we are here to help and our clients know us as the Fireman of Construction; We put out fires.

Scavuzzo & Associates P.A., Marc Scavuzzo CGC 1515090, Michael A. Scavuzzo RA 00004956

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Should you Attempt to be your own GENERAL CONTRACTOR?

Architectural PlansNo easy answer but, “it’s the largest shopping experience you will ever go on in your life.” Examining all of the facets of a construction project can be compared to a puzzle with some of the pieces not quite fitting correctly and finding a way to jam them together. And a famous quote comes to mind every time I touch upon this topic by Karl Jaspers – “Even scientific knowledge, if there is anything to it, is not a random observation of random objects; for the critical objectivity of significant knowledge is attained as a practice only philosophically in inner action”.

Let me start with a little background about me, my name is Marc Scavuzzo and I am a Principal of T.M. Design Associates, Architects P.A. and Scavuzzo & Associates P.A., General Construction.  My background is in Architecture for the past 18 years, a general contractor for the past 4 years and a newly acquired Master’s degree in Accounting. I am involved in every facet of the construction project, from planning to the budgeting to construction to completing the project.

Everything in construction starts somewhere maybe, “an idea”. That idea is transformed into the thought processes that start the engines of design. In my opinion, this is where the manual is created to carry-out your ideas to become a reality. No one comes up with a perfect design on the first shot so now dialog between the Architect and Owner to get it perfect at times take a considerable amount of time; and it’s time worth spent. Now the complexities of Engineering starts and where a major part of the coordination issues arise, remember,  keep the dialog simple; you are merely looking a layout of walls, design and electric. This to ensure that all of your walls, down lights, electrical receptacles are where you want them and if the design is appealing. Later in the design, you will get into the details: cabinets, tiles, wall finish, roof finish, etc…

Once your plans are complete, I cannot stress enough upon reviewing them, ask questions; know what you are building.

Once the plans are complete the municipal review starts and depending on the city, county or state this process varies. So, allow enough time to obtain a permit and once that’s issued the fun starts. I would, however, offer a piece of information: when you are assembling a table, if the instructions don’t offer a clear description of the installation; it will make it difficult to assemble. Well, the same goes with construction, the better the quality of the construction drawings, the less anxiety during construction. Hire a good Architect! For renovations, ask for references…visit some houses that they designed; be informed before making that decision.

As the contractor, a big responsibility is hiring the subcontractors who will do the work. You on the other hand will start with the usual suspects. Who do you know who had some work done on their house? Who did they use? Was it done on time and within budget?

Talk to subcontractors you’ve already vetted. If your carpenter recommends an electrician he works with frequently (and it’s not his ne’er-do-well brother-in-law), that’s a solid lead. If you’re using a project manager, have him help you.

Once you get a handful of subcontractors you like (three to five), start penciling in what your picks will charge to do each job. And remember that the low bidder doesn’t necessarily do the best work.

One other wrinkle: The builder’s crew normally does the framing. But since you’re the builder, you have to find a subcontractor who will do it for you.

Another point to consider: Do you want subcontractors to buy the supplies or do you want to do it yourself? There is no set answer, and the standard practice can vary with the professional, the trade and even the area of the country. “It’s a mixed bag,”.

So, Mr. Handyman, you think you’re ready to build your own house. Or at least to supervise the people who do the actual construction.

You want to be your own general contractor and hire the subcontractors, set the schedules, coordinate with inspectors and suppliers and buy some or all of the supplies. Maybe you should think about it some more.

The idea, of course, is to save the cost of a general contractor. “If you’re really savvy, you can get the lot at a good price, get construction at a good price and save a lot of money,” says Robert Irwin, author. But it’s not that easy. “Everybody can do it, but not everybody wants to,”

C. Kent Conine, past president of the National Association of Home Builders, is not a fan of the practice. “There are just so many pitfalls that come up in the middle of the process of constructing a home,” he says. “It’s not a perfect science.” And the study of the building sciences is not easy as you would think.

It can also make it difficult to find financing. “The lender wants to see that the person who’s doing the work is qualified general contractor.”

Who’s best for the job?
This is will be the most important part of this passage. Getting the most out of your money and the least amount of headaches and sanity by the end of your construction project. I can once again say, no easy answer but there is. The most knowledgeable person on your team is your Architect and many Architectural firms are now offering construction services and will work with your selected sub-contractors. An architect will be more conscience of detail and quality i.e. how the project is being built. A contractor will on the other hand does not possess the educational background and will at times make the mistake first and then call the Architect after a failed inspection to find a resolve.

Thorough the years I have compared various contracts with clients that have a building contractor/Architect scenario and an Architect/Builder scenario office that does both. I normally see a 20% savings on the General Conditions costs and an 80% decrease in change orders.

Professionals agree on how much you stand to save. While some claim you can cut as much as 40 percent of the cost of your home (especially if you do some of the work yourself, too), others believe 10 to 20 percent is more realistic.

What do you want?
Before you build anything, you need a clear picture in your own mind. Tour homes. Read books and magazines. Look at floor plans. Start a scrapbook with information and notes on all the details you want to include before sitting with your Architect.

This also is when you want to learn about the building process. Study up on the latest materials and supplies, as well as what goes in when. Building a house is like reciting the alphabet, and the order of the steps is just about as immutable.

When you feel ready, engage an architect to draw up a complete set of plans. “Make all the changes you want on paper,” says Irwin. Later, “even the smallest changes cost you a fortune.”

This also might be the time to weigh hiring a building professional, under a management contract, to help you. This person would cost less than a general contractor, and could walk you through parts of the project where you feel inexperienced.

Draw up a plan of action that includes each step in the process. “Storyboard it out,” Woodson says.

Now the fun begins. “It’s the largest shopping experience you will ever go on in your life,” says Heldmann. “If you like to shop, you will have a ball.”

As a builder, the biggest responsibility is hiring the subcontractors who will do the work. Start with the usual suspects. Are they all licensed? Workman’s Comp? How many project they have previously done with the builder?

Drive around neighborhoods you like and find out who’s doing that work. Talk to subcontractors you’ve already vetted. If your carpenter recommends an electrician he works with frequently (and it’s not his ne’er-do-well brother-in-law), that’s a solid lead. If you’re using a project manager, have him help you.

Once you get names, you want to learn all you can. Google them. Get a long list of references and talk to them. Examine past work in person. Arrange to meet them on a current job site.

Once you get a handful of builders you like (three to five), start penciling in what your likes and dislikes. And remember that the low bidder doesn’t necessarily mean the best value. At times Builders will intentionally price low and find ways to get extra money throughout the project or use inferior materials. Remember, you will pay either way.

So, Mr. Handyman, you think you’re ready to build your own house and hire the subcontractors, set the schedules, coordinate with inspectors and suppliers and buy some or all of the supplies. Maybe you should think about it some more.

The idea, of course, is to save the cost of a general contractor. “If you’re really savvy, you can get more bang for your buck, hire an Architect/Builder. You will get experience as well as quality construction at a good price and save a lot of money,” says Robert Irwin, author of Tips & Traps When Building A Home.

Building your home or remodeling project is not easy. “Everybody can do it, but not everybody wants to,” says Carl Heldmann, author of “Be Your Own House Contractor.”

C. Kent Conine, immediate past president of the National Association of Home Builders, is not a fan of the practice. “There are just so many pitfalls that come up in the middle of the process of constructing a home,” he says. “It’s not a perfect science.”

If you are building a new home, adding to your existing home or a commercial project in the South Florida area, give us a call as we offer FREE Construction Planning and Consulting.
Scavuzzo & Associates P.A., Architecture / Construction – 305-776-8921 or visit us on the web www.scavuzzoassoc.com

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