Commissioner Robert Stuart – October 2017
I read a very timely quote by the consummate actress Audrey Hepburn. She said “As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands- one for helping yourself and one for helping others.” As we all continue recovering together from Irma, I loved that seeing neighbors helping neighbors, even while they had their own issues to handle, was the norm, not the exception.
As we begin the first full month following Hurricane Irma’s visit to our City Beautiful, I wanted to provide a few reminders.
The City of Orlando has waived permit fees for hurricane related repairs, valued at $10,000 or less, through October 15th for commercial properties and December 14th for residential properties. Call 407-246-2271 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for information and to begin the process.
I know we are all antsy to get started on fixing our properties, but please take time to verify a contractor’s license at myfloridalicense.com. Here are some red flags to look for, outlined by Florida’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation, when hiring contractors and other repair professionals. These are good to always have in mind, not just during disaster recovery.
- No license number in advertisement or posting. Licensed contractors are required to list their license number in all advertisements. Rule of thumb: If they don’t have a license listed in their advertisement, which can be verified; move on to the next one.
- They list only their name and a cell phone number in their advertisement or posting.Do you really want to invite some stranger into your home that you contacted from an anonymous internet site or classified advertisement?
- They claim to be “licensed and insured” but can only produce an “occupational license,” or corporate filing.An “Occupational License” is not a license. It just means that the person has paid a tax receipt to the local municipality. Most local and county governments have stopped using this term as it is misleading and is often used to dupe unsuspecting home owners (please note that in the City of Orlando, we call it a Business Tax Receipt for just that reason). Also, just because a company is listed as a corporation does not mean they have the professional license to do your job.
- They want all or most of the money up front or will only accept cash.Run, don’t walk. Never pay cash for your home repairs or improvements.
- They want you to write the check to them individually or to “cash.” Be cautious of writing checks made payable to individuals, especially when dealing with a company.
- They show up in unmarked vehicles offering to do work, and often have out-of-state tags.Known as “trunk slammers” these are often the “hit and run” of the unlicensed contractors. Once they have your money, they slam the trunk shut and hit the road.
- They don’t want to put the work agreement in writing.Licensed contractors know it’s good business to put everything in writing, including a detailed description of the work to be completed, a completion date and the total cost.
- They try to convince you a permit is not necessary or that it’s cheaper if you obtain it yourself. Licensed contractors know that most improvements to the home require a permit and welcome the permit and inspection process to verify the work was done to code. Contact your local building department if you are not sure the work you are having done requires permitting and inspections. This is for your own safety and may be required as part of future insurance claims.
You probably read last month that the amount of yard debris left by Hurricane Irma is more than the City of Orlando would normally collect over 4.5 years. Since the hurricane, our crews have been working seven days a week to pick up this debris. Know that we will do three full passes of our entire city, but please understand that because of the impact of Hurricanes Irma and Harvey, contractors are in short supply as they respond across Florida and Texas. Our contractors are responding as quickly as they can to assist with our cleanup. If you see anything that still poses a dangerous safety hazard, please e-mail me at email@example.com.
I also want to share, in order to reassure our citizens, how financially prepared we are for unforeseen situations like these. Because of our city’s strong financial management along with the city council’s prudent use of reserves and year-end surplus from prior years, we will be able to pay our share of hurricane-related costs, while still maintaining our reserve target, which is 25% of our current year’s adopted general revenue budget of $424 million.
The City, led by our emergency management director, Manny Soto, will also soon begin coordinating the City’s oversight review committee of our hurricane response. I will share with its members the concerns I heard from residents, especially as it relates to adapting our communication strategies, so that we are even better prepared next time.
As always, thanks for all of your help in making our community an amazing place to live, work, play and raise a family. I am honored to serve you and look forward to continuing recovering together.