It may be tempting to hire an irrigation company that is not licensed and insured because their rates are lower, but it is not a wise thing to do. Installing and repairing an irrigation system on your property is an investment that should not be taken lightly. By hiring a company that is licensed and insured, you are not only protecting your finances, but also the well-being of you and your family.
Becoming a licensed irrigation contractor is serious business!
Florida requires that all irrigation system companies possess a Certified Irrigation Contractor License. The individual applying for the license must also have residential or commercial experience and/or hold a degree from an accredited college. Prior to applying for licensing, the applicant must take irrigation contractor classes online or in-person and pass two exams, one for irrigation and the other for business and finance. The next phase of the licensing process involves a credit check, a background check, and fingerprinting. Finally, the applicant must prove that they have obtained public liability and property damage insurance in the amounts determined by Board rule. They are also required to obtain workers compensation insurance or obtain an exemption from worker’s compensation insurance within 30 days of issuance of their license.
Pretty rigorous requirements! And don’t be misled, landscaper and pest control licenses do not cover irrigation work.
What are the risks with hiring a non-licensed contractor?
Hustlers abound. There are many fly-by-night companies that talk a good game and require you to pay 50% up front to schedule the repair or installation. While this may sound fine and dandy, the day of the appointment arrives, and nobody shows up to do the work. You call the company and find that their number has been disconnected. Florida is a hot bed for scammers and the news regularly reports on homeowners who have been robbed by what they thought was a legitimate company. Sadly, while it is important to make a police report whenever this happens, oftentimes there is not enough information available to find the criminals and make an arrest.
You are the general contractor. What does this mean? Exactly the way it sounds. Everything falls on your shoulders. Before work can begin, you are responsible for pulling all the permits. If one of the company’s crew members damages a sewer line, paying to have it repaired is your responsibility because you failed to hire someone with insurance that will cover this expensive mishap. Another instance is if the company tells you halfway through the repair or installation that they cannot or will not handle an unforeseen issue such as root removal, it is your duty to find a subcontractor to do the necessary work. To make matters worse, you will need to find someone who can do the work right away because the remainder of the irrigation project cannot proceed until the matter is handled.
Your insurance only goes so far. Most homeowner insurance policies will not cover damages caused by unlicensed contractors. This is especially true if the unlicensed contractor gets injured on your property. There have been cases of homeowners being forced to declare bankruptcy due to being sued and having to pay costly legal and medical bills.
Irrigation systems are not their specialty. Imagine you hear a knock at the door. You open it to find a man in an irrigation company uniform, but you have never heard of them and cannot recall seeing any of their advertisements. However, the man appears to know what he is talking about and asks to sit down at your kitchen table to discuss the finer details of the contract. DO NOT let him in. His only goal is to get inside your home, so he can see what is inside and learn as much about your daily routine as possible. Once he knows your work schedule, he will know when you will be away from home and for how long, so he can break in and grab whatever he wants. However, one must consider the worst-case scenario as he may be the type of criminal who will not care if you and your family are home when he decides to act on his true intentions.
The Final Steps
Never hire the first irrigation company you find during a web search of the Central Florida area. Narrow it down to a few and conduct research on all of them. You can accomplish this by reading Yelp! reviews and Better Business Bureau (BBB) ratings. Next, call the company and ask if they are licensed and insured. Do not feel shy about asking for their license number. However, before setting up an appointment to have them provide you with an irrigation estimate, visit the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) website and verify their licensing for yourself. In addition, customers can file a report with the DBPR about a company’s shady business practices or any supposed fraudulent activities.
While all of this may seem like a lot of hoops to jump through, you are about to make a large investment and need to safeguard your finances as well as your safety.
Remember, if you ever need assistance with sprinkler repair or irrigation in the Orlando area, give us a ring! We are always happy to answer questions about our licensing, insurance, and any other qualifications that will help gain your trust.