LEE COUNTY: Every homeowner should know that unlicensed subcontractors are building homes in Southwest Florida and state law allows it to happen. NBC2 Investigates found out about the loophole and how it affects you.
When Vincent Arcuri walks around the construction site of his new home, he tends to raise his voice.
"If this home isn't built right, it's just going to fall right down," said Arcuri.
Arcuri has reason to worry.
"I wanted a sure thing. I went with a big company and I got nothing but trouble," said Arcuri.
He signed a contract with Jim Walter Homes a year and a half ago, after Hurricane Charley destroyed his first home.
"After six months I realized I wasn't going to have a home built so I bought this trailer," said Arcuri.
Eighteen months later, he has little to show for it.
"I started taking pictures of everything," said Arcuri.
Part of the reason for the delay: the foundation of the home had to be ripped up after steel rods were put in the wrong place.
"117 of those rods were misplaced, 117 out of 136 rods misplaced," said Arcuri.
"Exactly how much supervision does Jim Walter Homes have over their homes when 116 rods were put in the wrong place?" said Erin Mullen-Travis.
Mullen-Travis oversees building construction licenses in Charlotte County.
"We license all of our contractors," said Mullen-Travis.
She says the problems with Acuri's home are a direct result of Jim Walter using unlicensed sub- contractors. Because they are unlicensed, she can't hold them accountable.
Mullen-Travis worries about the quality of the dozens of other homes Jim Walter has built in Southwest Florida.
"If you can just walk into a jurisdiction, pick up a hammer and call yourself a carpenter, That doesn't give me any security," said Mullen-Travis.
According to state law, Jim Walter Homes can use unlicensed subcontractors on single family homes like Arcuri's. The county licensing manager says at best that law is inconsistent and at worst it's downright negligent.
"I would love to see the state of Florida step up to the plate. You enacted this law, now define supervision," said Mullen-Travis.
Jim Walter Homes says state law is on its side. Company spokesman Mike Monahan responded saying Florida statutes explicitly exempts non-specialty contractors, such as those that do framing, lot clearing, and concrete work if those persons are under the supervision of a residential building contractor, such as Jim Walter Homes.
For now, all Arcuri can do is count down the days until he moves out of his trailer and into his new home and hope hurricane season doesn't wipe out what little progress has been made.
To avoid a similar situation, you should talk to your builder and find out the answers to these questions:
- Is your builder using licensed subcontractors?
- Are the subcontractors employed by the builder?
- Is the builder familiar with local codes?
It also might be a good idea to find a licensed home inspector to periodically conduct on-site home inspections to make sure the work is being done correctly.