Unlicensed Contractor Florida: Penalties & Laws (Hirer & Hiree)

Unlicensed contractor Florida

Like most states, Florida regulates the construction industry in the interest of the public’s safety and well being. This regulation extends to contractors, and includes penalties for hiring an unlicensed contractor in Florida. Here, we explain some of the consequences of unlicensed contractor activity and the recourse you may have for related damages.

Can I Get in Trouble for Hiring an Unlicensed Contractor?

Yes, property owners, developers, general contractors, and others who knowingly hire unlicensed contractors may have exposure and find themselves in trouble. The fallout, especially in cases that result in property damage or personal injury, can include financial penalty or worse. It’s important to verify your contractor’s licensing in Florida.

So, What Happens if You Hire an Unlicensed Contractor?

Aside from legal penalties, the consequences of hiring an unlicensed contractor include many financial and practical problems. You can end up paying for these problems long after the unlicensed contractor performs the work on your property. The use of an unlicensed contractor can also void any related construction agreements you may have with other parties.

As a homeowner, you may wonder, “What recourse do I have against a home builder who used unlicensed contractors?” The answer includes possible civil recovery through a lawsuit or other initiatives like the homeowner’s recovery relief fund.

Increased Risk of Safety Issues

Perhaps the greatest danger of unlicensed contracting is hiring someone who will disregard important building code requirements and take other shortcuts to complete a project. The result is an increased risk of compromising your property’s structural integrity. You may experience substantial property damage (e.g., electrical fires, flooding, collapsing of walls, etc.). Even worse, this property damage can cause injury to yourself or others, which can create additional liability.

Rejected Homeowner’s Insurance Claims

Homeowners usually turn to their property insurance when they experience construction defects and related claims. When your insurer discovers that the defect was the result of work from an unlicensed contractor, it may create a cause to void your policy and reject all claims. You will likely have difficulty insuring the property moving forward until you remedy the unlicensed work and pass any necessary inspections.

Lowers Your Property Value and Requires Additional Resources

Poor work product from a contractor without a proper license always reveals itself in one way or another. Often, this happens when you go to resale the property and your potential buyer discovers defects and other building code violations from their appraiser. The appraisal will likely reflect a decreased property value from what you expected because of the additional costs that will be necessary to get the property in compliance and the potential risk of other hidden defects.

Ultimately, cutting corners on a construction project by using someone who doesn’t meet the licensing requirements will cost you more money in the long term because of the liability issues, costs to repair, and wasted time fixing problems.

The Penalty for Not Pulling a Permit in Florida

Florida requires you to pull appropriate building permits for most construction projects that involve the establishment, alteration, repair, or other work to a structure. The purpose of the permit is to notify the local governing body (usually a county or city) about the ongoing construction at the job site. Failing to pull permitting before starting the contracting work can lead to a penalty of 100% of the permit fee in addition to payment of the original permit fee amount.

Additionally, those in the construction industry who obtain permits on behalf of others (e.g., an unlicensed subcontractor) can face punishment of a first-degree misdemeanor for a first offense or a third-degree felony for subsequent violations.

What Is the Legal Penalty for Hiring Unlicensed Contractors in Florida?

Using an unlicensed contractor to complete construction work, remodels, or other home improvements can have a serious legal penalty. The state of Florida or local governing bodies may seek an injunction judgment or otherwise prevent you from continuing or completing the contracting work. This can lead to delays and lost revenue.

You may also find yourself subject to various fees and penalties from building authorities. Finally, you open yourself up to exposure of a civil lawsuit from anyone damaged from your use of an unlicensed contractor such as rights available under FDUTPA.

Recap on the Benefits of a Licensed Contractor vs Non Licensed Contractor

The benefits of working with a licensed contractor far outweigh any perceived benefits you may think you get from using an unlicensed contractor. The idea of lower labor costs or expedited or bypassing permitting procedures may seem appealing at first glance. However, those benefits lose their value because of the penalties and other issues explained above in addition to the other benefits of using someone with the proper licensure such as:

  • Greater trust that your contractor will know about building code standards and will work with inspectors to approve your construction project.
  • Confidence that your contractor will have the requisite workers’ compensation insurance, liability insurance, and bonding in the event of an incident.
  • Reduced risk of your insurer voiding any homeowner’s or other insurance policy.

Who Needs a Contractor’s License Under Florida Contractor Laws?

If you do any type of construction work related to the development or improvement of real property and structures. This generally includes services such as:

  • Repairs
  • Alterations
  • Remodeling
  • Additions
  • Demolition

People and businesses that provide contracting work will need to obtain registration documentation, certificates of competency, and any other required licensure. These licensing requirements exist at the state and local level. You will need to check with the local city or county governing bodies where you provide construction work to determine any additional licensing they may require. Florida statute further defines the types of contractors who are usually subject to licensing amongst others:

  • General contractors
  • Subcontractors
  • Building contractors (those who work on commercial property)
  • Residential contractors
  • Electricians
  • Plumbing contractors
  • Penalties for Contracting Without a License in Florida

Operating a business without a license in Florida usually qualifies as unlicensed activity that may subject you to punishment from the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. The professions code also punishes other activity from contractors that involves fraud, deceit, or other falsity about their status as a licensed contractor. The penalties include:

  • Revocation or termination of other licenses you may have related to your business
  • Losing the enforceability of any contracts or liens you may hold as a result of providing unlicensed services
  • Conviction of a misdemeanor in the first degree for a first-time offense
  • Conviction of a third-degree felony for a repeated offense
  • Civil penalty from local code enforcement agencies

How Much Work Can You Do Without a Contractor License in Florida?

Certain handyman services that involve simple repairs and other odd jobs may not rise to the level requiring licensure with the state or local government in Florida. However, Florida statute does not distinguish these services from contractor services through any dollar amount or other simple metric. Rather, you will be responsible for reviewing local licensing codes and the professions code to determine if your services fall under their scope. Our Florida construction attorney team is always available to help you know whether licensure is necessary.

Statutes Relevant to Florida Unlicensed Contractors

As a contractor, you will want to bookmark the following Florida Statutes that primarily govern the scope of your business.

489.105 Florida Statute

Chapter 489.101 et seq. of the Florida Statutes covers all aspects of construction contracting including interactions with the licensing board, handling money with customers, licensing requirements, insurance requirements, and related activity.

Chapter 553 of the Florida Statutes

Chapter 553 of the Florida Statutes is where you will find rules and procedures related to building construction standards, which includes information about how your work product must conform to meet safety requirements, energy conservation and efficiency standards, etc.

Need Help with a Florida Contractor Complaint?

The litigation attorneys at Cueto Law Group are ready to help homeowners and others who may have been the victim of activity from a Florida unlicensed contractor. We can help you identify parties at fault, file complaints with the appropriate licensing board or court, and calculate your incurred damages.

Contact our office today to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys about your real estate contractor matter.

FAQs

Can a Contractor Work Under Someone Else’s License in Florida?

The answer may depend on the relationship between the two parties but in most cases, a contractor cannot legally work under another’s license. The unlicensed contractor’s work can result in financial penalties to both parties and may lead to license revocation for the registered contractor.

Can I Sue an Unlicensed Contractor in Florida?

You may be able to sue an unlicensed contractor in Florida who caused damage to you or your property. The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation also manages a construction recovery fund where damaged homeowners may be able to obtain relief after an incident related to unlicensed contractor activity.

Is It Illegal to Hire an Unlicensed Contractor in Florida?

Yes, knowingly hiring an unlicensed contractor in Florida is illegal and may create civil liability and other punishment, especially if you are in the construction industry as a general contractor or developer. You should always confirm the contractor license number and its status before agreeing to work.

Do I Have to Pay an Unlicensed Contractor in Florida?

If you recently discovered that you hired an unlicensed contractor after they provided services, you may have some recourse. Florida statute generally voids contracts with parties who were unlicensed as of the contract’s effective date. This may extend to payment terms and other related items like property liens.

How Do I Report an Unlicensed Contractor in Florida?

You can report an unlicensed contractor to the State of Florida’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation. You may also be able to notify applicable local city or county agencies. These agencies may initiate investigations, hold hearings, and take other disciplinary action based on the report.