NARI Tampa Bay is concerned with the illegal construction and remodeling activity occurring in the Tampa Bay region. The group has taken an active role in working with law enforcement and building departments to help find ways to enforce existing laws and regulations and stay within existing budgets of the various agencies. Several counties in the region have already taken steps to combat unlicensed construction activity and NARI Tampa Bay has assisted in expanding those programs to other municipalities in the area.
A recent “sting” operation in May included multiple agencies. Police set up a vacant home with cameras and then asked for bids from known suspects on jobs that would require a state license. A “War Room” was created in a police department conference room complete with video and audio feed onto a large TV screen so all could see faces, etc. Two undercover detectives were stationed near the house in vehicles and a third one posed as the homeowner inside the house. License plates were run, identities were verified by several means, licensing (or in 95% of the cases here, NOT) verified, insurance checked, etc. A total of 16 men were arrested on charges related to unlicensed contracting. Each offender can expect fines from the PCCLB, the State and Insurance Fraud division. The police may even confiscate vehicles and tools as long as state law allows. Once all the folks were arrested, ABC Action News Channel 10 (ABC local affiliate) and the Tampa Bay Times immediately began running reports of the operation.
On June 5, NARI Tampa Bay members went to Tallahassee to meet with the State Attorney General’s office. The NARI members met with Deputy Attorney General Trish Conners to ask that Attorney General Pam Bondi make law enforcement agencies across the state realize that unlicensed contracting is a crime and not a civil offense as many police departments assume is the case. In addition, the NARI group asked the AG’s office to explore running ad campaigns statewide to educate homeowners on the laws affecting construction and remodeling and warn them of the danger signs. NARI Tampa Bay also asked for the ad campaigns to educate those who wish to operate a business in the construction and remodeling industry on the licensing requirements, procedures and resources available to become properly licensed and insured for their respective business types. The meeting was very productive with the Deputy Attorney General pledging to work with NARI and also make introductions to a number of Florida law enforcement associations where NARI can continue to develop partnerships.
NARI Tampa Bay is taking an active role in combating unlicensed activity but more importantly, wishes to be a resource for homeowners and professionals in the construction industry. Check out the NARI website for your area chapter when searching for any type of contractor. Find our area NARI members at nari-tampabay.org.