North Port sting snares suspected unlicensed contractor

Stephen Dobrowski
Stephen Dobrowski(SCSO)
Published: Nov. 2, 2022 at 4:13 PM EDT
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SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - A Mississippi man was arrested Tuesday in a sting operation for allegedly doing unlicensed contracting work during a state of emergency, North Port Police said.

Police say Stephen Dobrowski was posing as a licensed contractor soliciting work to do repairs on hurricane-damaged homes.

Authorities say they were alerted to Dobrowski’s presence in North Port by the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

On Nov. 1, detectives set up a meeting with Dobrowski at a home in North Port. Police say Dobrowski presented himself as a licensed and insured contractor and entered into a verbal contract to do $2,000 in roof repairs to the home.

When Dobrowski left, he was immediately arrested by waiting officers, a police report said.

Dobrowski was charged with engaging in contracting business without a license and performing work with no building permit.

According to the City of North Port, contractors from other states are not allowed to pull permits without being registered in Florida. If the contractor is unregistered, they are also not allowed to pull permits.

The city urges consumers to follow these tips before hiring anyone to work on their property:

  • Only hire licensed contractors and ask to see their license. Verify the license at www.myfloridalicense.com or call 850-487-1395. Licensed contractors are required by law to include their license number in all advertising. An occupational or business license is not sufficient in the construction trades.
  • If the project is for repairing damage, check with your insurance company before you sign a contractor to verify that your insurance will cover the repairs.
  • Obtain at least three written bids, check references, and get a written contract.
  • Beware of contractors who claim to be the cheapest, solicit door-to-door, or give a post office box instead of a street address.
  • Avoid any contractor who tries to convince you to personally obtain building permits or those building permits are not necessary for the project.
  • Beware of alleged contractors who ask to be paid in cash or ask for large payments up front. Avoid paying cash or full payment in advance. Don’t pay more than 10 percent as a down payment. Once you’re happy with the quote, get job details, costs, and payment schedule in writing before signing the final contract.
  • Avoid signing anything stating your insurance benefits will be paid directly to the contractor.

Aside from the inability to sue the contractor or receive recovery funds should there be a breach of contract, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation can stop construction and impose a $5,000 fine to the homeowner.

Additionally, homeowners may be liable to pay unpaid subcontractors and any potential on-the-job injuries. Unlicensed contractors do not have insurance coverage. Any injury that occurs on your property will be a claim against your insurance.