In August, the Pinellas Sheriff’s Office capped off its latest efforts to crack down on unlicensed contractors. What was dubbed “Operation Flush Out” resulted in the arrest of 27 men and three women on charges related to unlicensed contracting. Then last week, Pasco County unveiled its latest anti-unlicensed contracting undercover operation, which netted 20 men, including one who was on probation for punching and raping a woman, charged with unlicensed contracting, a misdemeanor, and failing to have worker compensation insurance, a felony. In both operations, undercover detectives went online to advertise for services such as water heater installations or air conditioning work and later arrested the unlicensed or uninsured who showed up and offered to carry out the services.

There are several good reasons for consumers to take every step possible to ensure any contractors they might agree to pay for work are licensed and have insurance. For one, of work like electrical wiring done by an unlicensed contractor were to spark a fire, homeowners insurance would not cover the damage. In addition, a person who contracts with someone who is not insured would be legal liable for damages if the contract is injured while carrying out the work.

Another good reason is that unlicensed contractors have been known to demand a large upfront payment, perhaps 50 percent, and then disappear with the money without doing the work. That’s why law enforcement and government officials say never pay more than the 10 percent upfront payment allowed under state law.

Fortunately, city, counties and states offer several ways for people to check on whether contractors are properly licensed, both online and over the phone, such as We urge people to take advantage of them.