Thursday, July 14, 2005

Contractors and the Good Ol' Boys

Florida law requires building contractors to be licensed. Fair enough. But handymen aren't required to be licensed, except insofar as they have a business covered by local county or city ordinances.

When Hurricane Ivan devastated the area, it was immediately apparent that there weren't enough licensed contractors to handle the crisis. Tens of thousands of damaged roofs, blown doors and windows, and dwellings open to the elements had to be secured.

What to do, what to do?

The state quickly adopted an emergency rule allowing localities to issue "temporary roofing licenses." Some counties did, and some only pretended -- adopting Rube Goldberg procedures that made it nearly impossible for any capable handmen from out of state to get a temporary license. The need was so great, however, that enforcement of the licensing rules was lax to non-existent for many months.

So, the work got done. Anyone who lives in Northwest Florida knows darn well that if hadn't been for out-of-state workers, many from Texas and points even further south than that, we would have still been looking at a sea of ruined roofs as Hurricane Dennis approached. (True, there still were several hundred un-repaired homes the night before Dennis arrived, but most of these were due to the bad faith settlement practices of insurance companies, not the unavailability of workers.)

The Pensacola area, including Pensacola Beach, owes a huge debt of thanks to foreign and out-of-state workers who helped to pick us up when we'd been knocked down by Ivan. So how do we thank them?

By banning them from the beach!

Yesterday, general manager Buck Lee of the Santa Rosa Island Authority announced that anyone with a current year's window sticker can drive to the beach to secure their homes and business. To get a sticker, you have to be either a resident or a licensed contractor. In effect, this protects the market for the good ol' local boys and their buddies. Foreigners, out of staters, and -- we may as well say it bluntly -- dusky-skinned workers need not apply.

The irony is that Northwest Florida prides itself on being politically "conservative" in the traditional meaning of the word -- against overweaning governmental rules and in favor of the 'marketplace magic' of free competition. When the chips are down, though, local politicos are every bit as heavy-handed as the Politburo pols in Moscow.

How will this affect beach residents? Those whose homes were damaged again by Hurricane Dennis can't hire a handyman to help seal up their home, apply a blue roof, clean up the debris, or perform a myriad of other necessary post-hurricane tasks -- tasks that need to get done now, well before anyone begins to think about permanent repairs or rebuilding.

These aren't jobs that require a licensed contractor. But you'll have to pay for one, anyway -- or do it yourself.

No doubt beach and county officials will claim the rules are for our own good. We need to be protected against unscupulous workers, they'll say. There always will be a few cheats in the aftermath of a storm like Ivan or Dennis. Recent experience shows, however, that cheats and frauds and bankrupt contractors are at least as prevalent among the licensed contractor community as among out-of-staters.

The solution is not to allow licensed contractors to monopolize the beach market, especially during the clean-up phase. That only will delay recovery and invite price-gouging.


Entreprenørfirma said...

Very AWESOME article. Thank you for sharing and keep up the good work.

Bankruptcy Attorney Denver said...

It is quite sad to hear the word bankruptcy but have no fear. Hiring a bankruptcy lawyer will benefit you in every aspect of filing for bankruptcy. You will not have to worry about filling out all of those confusing documents when you have a bankruptcy attorney.

Mitchelle Adams said...

Its the first time I've heard of bankcrupsy attorney x)

Interesting post btw...