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 suggestions. In the end, its up to you to protect yourself from unlicensed and unethical “contractors”.