In Florida, it is a criminal offense to engage in contracting work or otherwise act in the capacity of a contractor without a valid Florida contractor’s license. Contracting without a license in Florida is a serious criminal offense and can be charged as a felony or misdemeanor carrying possible jail time and fines of $1,000.00 and higher.
On a regular basis I am asked by friends and clients whether or not the activity they are performing requires a contractor’s license, whether they need to register with a local government and how they can be sure that the activities they are performing are in compliance with Florida law. This article briefly defines Contracting, Licensed activities and the difference between Licensing and Registration.
Under Florida law, the offense of “Contracting Without a License” can encompass a broad range of conduct related to the construction industry. Section 489.127, Florida Statutes, provides as follows:
(1) No person shall:
(a) Falsely hold himself or herself or a business organization out as a licensee, certificateholder, or registrant;
(b) Falsely impersonate a certificateholder or registrant;
(c) Present as his or her own the certificate or registration of another;
(d) Knowingly give false or forged evidence to the board or a member thereof;
(e) Use or attempt to use a certificate or registration that has been suspended or revoked;
(f) Engage in the business or act in the capacity of a contractor or advertise himself or herself or a business organization as available to engage in the business or act in the capacity of a contractor without being duly registered or certified;
(g) Operate a business organization engaged in contracting after 60 days following the termination of its only qualifying agent without designating another primary qualifying agent, except as provided in ss. 489.119 and 489.1195;
(h) Commence or perform work for which a building permit is required pursuant to part IV of chapter 553 without such building permit being in effect; or
(i) Willfully or deliberately disregard or violate any municipal or county ordinance relating to uncertified or unregistered contractors.
Subsection (f) above is where a lot of confusion occurs. What exactly does “acting in the capacity of a contractor” mean? Well, it depends!!
“Contractor” means the person who is qualified for, and is only responsible for, the project contracted for and means, the person who, for compensation, undertakes to, submits a bid to, or does himself or herself or by others construct, repair, alter, remodel, add to, demolish, subtract from, or improve any building or structure, including related improvements to real estate.
Therefore, unless otherwise exempted, for a person or company to perform any of the above, that person or entity must either be Licensed or Registered. To be Licensed, or a Certified Contractor, you must be able to pass the State Contractor’s Exam, provide a proven record of financial stability, and present evidence of your experience for the category in which you wish to be licensed. A more detailed overview of how to become a Licensed Contractor can be found on myfloridalicense.com.
For a contractor to be Registered he or she must obtain a local or city license and apply of the initial registration license. Once the contractor has applied to the Construction Industry Board, then he or she may only practice in the specific city or local area where its permission has been granted.
In sum, for any person who wishes to perform improvements to real estate they should seek professional advice to make sure they are in compliance with all local and state rules and laws. For those seeking to hire a contractor its important to understand the scope of your own project, what requirements are placed upon you as the owner and how best to protect your property and yourself from unlicensed activities.