Don’t Sign That Blank Permit!
- Unlicensed contractors can use a blank form to scam you
- Verify if a contractor is licensed before hiring him/her
- Never sign a blank document
- Signing a document that will be notarized in your absence violates the notary statute
It may seem obvious to you not to sign a form in blank but it is amazing how often this happens with owners and contractors. Let me paint the picture of how this can come about. You meet a contractor to do a renovation for you. It could be as small as a bathroom remodel or as significant as an entire warehouse. The contractor comes to you with a series of forms, sometimes in blank and he tells you they are just forms that need to be submitted. The two most common are a notice of commencement and a permit application. Since you have built some level of trust with this person and being the cooperative owner that you are, you decide to do it.
Here is where the problem lies. The notice of commencement form and the permit application that are blank are supposed to list who the contractor is. If the contractor that has presented himself to you is not licensed, he may fill in the name of another contractor he has a relationship with. Someone may be kicking back money to have that person’s information included in the notice of commencement and in the permit application. If the contractor you are dealing with is not licensed, one of the tricks of the trade is to have you sign these two forms, the notice of commencement and the permit application, in blank so he can list the licensed contractor, someone whom you may have never met, on these documents. Unlicensed contracting is a big problem in South Florida and you should protect yourself by following these simple steps.
Search the website of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation
Ask the contractor to give you his license number and verify it on the Department of Business and Professional Regulation website. You can also search for the name of the contractor on the DBPR website to verify if the contractor is actually licensed. If you find the contractor, check to see if he/she has any disciplinary history. If you do the search and the contractor is not there, you need to be very aware that he/she may not be licensed. This is a big red flag. You need to go back to the contractor before you sign the contract and confirm licensure.
Under no circumstances should you be signing any documents in blank
Permit application and the notice of commencement are typically notarized documents. This creates a whole other problem. You are signing a document outside of the notary’s presence. This is a violation of the notary statute.
We have two cases pending in our Miami office right now in which the unlicensed contractor was able to proceed with his scam against our client, the owner, by having the owner sign the incomplete notice of commencement and permit application forms – a big problem that should be avoided at all costs.