Check Out Your Contractor

08/02/2010

Internet can yield good info about contractors

Save this list so you can check people out


Written by
Melanie Payne
tellmel@news-press.com
Melanie Payne - Consumer Watchdog
Of all the bad things I thought could happen when an unlicensed contractor comes into a home, I really could never have imagined the horrible death of Mary Ann Zarb.
According to reports, the 64-year old woman hired a handyman at her Estero home and she ended up dead. The handyman and his buddy are the prime suspects.
I doubt Zarb checked out these two yahoos, because she likely would have discovered their criminal records and that neither had a contractor's license.
I certainly am not blaming this poor woman. She should have been able to let a handyman into her home without expecting to be killed. But we don't live in the age when you can trust people. You need to check them out first.
That's still no guarantee you won't hire a criminal or someone who will do you harm or rip you off. And just because someone has a criminal past, is a sex offender, or has financial troubles doesn't mean they shouldn't be hired. But you need to know some background information.
So get the scissors and clip out this column. Because I'm going to list some websites you can use:
myfloridalicense.com
Don't believe a license number on an invoice or business card is valid. This website will allow you to check out license numbers and names to see qualifications and complaints.
sheriffleefl.org
Go to the "Arrests & Inmates" tab and then "Search Lee County Arrests." A long arrest record can be an indication of trouble.
leeclerk.org
There are two places to search on this site that will give you two valuable data sets. One is the court records where you can find both criminal and civil cases. And if you search official records, you can get some indication of the financial state of your contractor by checking his name and the company.
offender.fdle.state.fl.us
I don't think most of the people on this site pose a great danger to the average adult. But you might want to know what they were convicted of and judge accordingly.
Every time I print websites, people call me to complain because they don't own a computer or know how to use the one they do own. Well, the Lee County Public Library has computers and they are stepping in to help.
On Wednesday, May 11, from 1:30-3 p.m. at the Fort Myers branch in downtown Fort Myers, there's a seminar where I and the library staff will teach you how to do simple computer searches using some public-record websites.
Space is limited, so you must call 239-479-4636 (479-INFO) to register for the program. There's no cost. But prior to the start of the class you need to get a library card.
- Email Melanie Payne at tellmel@news-press.com, call 239-344-4772 or write to "Tell Mel," 2442 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Fort Myers, 33901. Read more at news-press.com/tellmel.

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