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Naples officials urge: Beware of unlicensed landscapers

Naples Daily News, Fla. — Joseph Cranney Naples Daily News, Fla.

Oct. 11--Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the phone number residents should use to contact Naples code enforcement. The correct number is 239-252-2431.

Naples officials are urging caution to homeowners who may still be looking to hire contractors for work cleaning up the seemingly endless mounds of debris left behind by Hurricane Irma.

Homeowners face heavy fines from the city or Collier County if they authorize unlicensed work on their property, officials said. And work done by those who aren't professionals could end up causing even more problems.

A Naples resident faces punishment from city code enforcement after the resident hired an unlicensed landscaping crew to clean up the front yard. It's unclear why, but as part of the work, the workers sawed the tops off two thick limbs growing from a large city-owned Mahogany tree.

That tree now needs replacing, at a cost that will likely have to be covered by the property owner, Code Enforcement Manager Roger Jacobsen said.

"The homeowner is ultimately responsible for any code issue that happens on their property," he said.

Jacobsen on Friday was patrolling the neighborhood on 22nd Avenue North and spotted the crew's pickup with Texas license plates. No one in the three-member crew could produce a Florida contractor's certificate or a license authorizing work in any other state.

Jacobsen wrote the group a $115 fine. If the crew doesn't pay, the liability falls on the property owner. The owner is also likely on the hook for a $500 public tree removal fine and the estimated $1,200 cost to complete the removal and grind the stump.

The crew had gone door-to-door in the neighborhood asking for work.

Homeowners should not acknowledge anyone soliciting work at your doorstep, Jacobsen said.

"Because then it becomes -- what are you really looking for?" he said.

Jacobsen urged residents to be wary of out-of-state crews coming to Southwest Florida to capitalize on the work needed after Irma.

"Sometimes they say, 'We're just here to help people,'" Jacobsen said. "Well if you're here to help people, do it for free."

Before hiring anyone, demand they show a Florida license, Jacobsen said. Collier County is also handing out 60-day licenses to contractors who can show proof of their license in another state.

And property owners are urged not to pay any deposits to crews before work starts. Only pay when the work is completed.

To verify a license, Jacobsen said, property owners should call Naples code enforcement at 239-252-2431.

"A phone call would have solved all of this," he said.

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