Just about every newspaper or shopper type of publication in Florida has a section where “Handymen” list their services. Be careful when choosing one of these guys.

Florida does not issue a handyman license; some counties do issue a handyman occupational license, but that is really just a business tax.

The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation website lists what service require a license in the state. If you take a look at that list, a handyman is very limited in what he or she can legally do. The key word here is legally.

A huge number of former contractors from the north decide that they want to continue working a little bit once they move to Florida. They may have owned a contracting firm or worked as a contractor before the move. While they may possess all of the needed skills to do a job, a Florida license is required.

Why would you care as long as they get the job done and save you a few bucks? One reason is liability. If the handyman is not licensed, he most likely cannot get insurance for the business. That means if he gets hurt, or causes damage or injury to others while on your property, you are liable. You will have to file a claim with your insurance carrier in the event that the handyman does something wrong.

Here is an example I experienced that may give you some insight into the issue. There were two pine trees located between myself and the next door neighbor. Both trees developed a disease and needed to be removed. The neighbor was a really nice fellow and we agreed that since we did not know who actually owned the trees, we would share the removal fee.

He contacted a “guy” who said he was a tree trimmer. This person showed up and said he would take down both trees for $100.00. Now, he had a really old, beat up pickup truck with no marking or sign that showed he was in business. I asked if he had insurance and he tried to pawn off an expired license for something and his car insurance.

I called a professional tree service and got a quote of $300.00 for the job. The trimmer produced his license and insurance document without me even asking. He had a tee shirt on with his company logo and drove a newer model truck with the logo proudly displayed. He assured me that the job would be done safely and promptly.

Of course, I chose the pro. The neighbor, on the other hand wanted his cheap guy. So we decide that we would each hire our own person.

His “guy” failed to keep the appointment he made to cut the tree. He showed up one day unannounced and started to work. As I was sitting in my house, I heard a giant thump outside. This genius just got out his chainsaw and sliced through the bottom of the trunk. Thankfully the tree did fall right between the two houses. I do think it was a matter of luck, not skill on the part of this “guy”.

He sort of cleaned up the downed tree, but left a good bit of debris lying in the lawn for the neighbor to clean up.

professional at workMy professional called to confirm our appointment for the next day. He arrived at the given time and got started. He proceeded to trim all of the branches off of the tree as he climbed to the top. The fallen branches were stacked by his employees at the bottom of the tree. Once he got to the top, he started cutting the trunk in about two feet sections. Those were dropped to the ground, hitting the piled up branches with little noise and no damage to the lawn.

Once finished cutting, all branches and bit of the tree were raked up and carried off by the crew. A true professional job; well worth the money.

The point in all of this is to be careful when you hire someone to do work for you. Make sure they are licensed and have the proper insurance. NEVER hire a guy who knocks on your door asking to do work.

FOG sez: Don’t worry, I never ask to do work. I try to avoid it.