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What Are The Florida Laws Concerning the Hiring of Unlicensed Contractors?

Jacksonville, FL |

I know that in one state unlicensed contractors can't do work if the cost is over a certain amount ; that should any injuries occur the homeowner could be sued; and that if shoddy work is done there is no agency to go to and complain. What about in Florida?

Attorney Answers 3


  1. Best answer

    A contractor is a person who hires other people to do work on your property. Many jobs require a building permit. A licensed contractor can "pull" a permit in his own name for your job. An unlicensed one cannot but would have to have the owner pull it for him.

    A licensed contractor is required to have certain insurances like workmen's compensation and liability insurance. If one of his workers or some bystander is injured on your job you would be protected by his workmen's comp or liability insurance. But if he is unlicensed and has no workermen's comp insurance or liability and a worker or bystander is injured, then you may be liable for the injury on your property.

    A homeowner can do his/her own project on a job. He can pull the permit and he can hire the carpenter, the mason, or other skilled or unskilled but unlicensed workers.

    So, the question becomes, how are you defining a contractor? Ultimately it depends, I think, on the size of the job. Do you want someone to build a house on your land or just change the windows on your house.

    And then there are all kinds of contractors' licenses. General contractors, electrical, plumbing, painting, air conditioning, etc.

    As far as there being a cost limit above which the contractor must be licensed, I have never heard of that. If you are hiring someone who hires others to do the work, he has to be licensed. But if it is a specific job that you can do yourself, then you can be your own contractor, pull your own permit, and hire people to do the job, and call the inspectors to examine the work.

    The foregoing is offered for informational purposes only and is not legal advice nor does it create an attorney-client relationship but if you found it helpful, please check the thumbs-up box below.


  2. "Unlicensed Contracting" in Florida is both criminal in nature and has substantial civil penalties.

    Florida Statutes define a construction contractor as:

    "Contractor means the person who is qualified for, and shall only be responsible for, the project contracted for and means, except as exempted in this part, 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, for others or for resale to others; and whose job scope is substantially similar to the job scope described in one of the subsequent paragraphs of this subsection."

    Further, there is a specific section of the statute which tells us the civil penalties related to engaging in Contracting without a State of Florida issued license:

    489.128 Contracts entered into by unlicensed contractors unenforceable.--
    (1) As a matter of public policy, contracts entered into on or after October 1, 1990, by an unlicensed contractor shall be unenforceable in law or in equity by the unlicensed contractor.
    1(a) For purposes of this section, an individual is unlicensed if the individual does not have a license required by this part concerning the scope of the work to be performed under the contract. A business organization is unlicensed if the business organization does not have a primary or secondary qualifying agent in accordance with this part concerning the scope of the work to be performed under the contract. For purposes of this section, if a state license is not required for the scope of work to be performed under the contract, the individual performing that work is not considered unlicensed.
    (b) For purposes of this section, an individual or business organization may not be considered unlicensed for failing to have a business tax receipt issued under the authority of chapter 205.
    (c) For purposes of this section, a contractor shall be considered unlicensed only if the contractor was unlicensed on the effective date of the original contract for the work, if stated therein, or, if not stated, the date the last party to the contract executed it, if stated therein. If the contract does not establish such a date, the contractor shall be considered unlicensed only if the contractor was unlicensed on the first date upon which the contractor provided labor, services, or materials under the contract.
    (2) Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, if a contract is rendered unenforceable under this section, no lien or bond claim shall exist in favor of the unlicensed contractor for any labor, services, or materials provided under the contract or any amendment thereto.
    (3) This section shall not affect the rights of parties other than the unlicensed contractor to enforce contract, lien, or bond remedies. This section shall not affect the obligations of a surety that has provided a bond on behalf of an unlicensed contractor. It shall not be a defense to any claim on a bond or indemnity agreement that the principal or indemnitor is unlicensed for purposes of this section.

    There are many other parts of the Florida Statute dealing with the licensing requirements for Construction Contractors. They can be found in the Florida Statutes at your public library ( Section 489 ) or go to the Statutes on the web at this link:

    http://www.leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?Mode=View%20Statutes&Submenu=1&Tab=statutes&CFID=156214155&CFTOKEN=27684393

    GOOD LUCK !!


  3. In addition to the foregoing responses, you should be aware that an unlicensed contractor CANNOT enforce a contract and may not sue you to get paid, and CANNOT foreclose on a lien. An exception may exist if you knew that the contractor was not licensed and entered into the contract anyway.

    This response does not create an attorney-client relationship. Unless you are already a client of the Mallory Law Group, pursuant to an executed employment agreement, you should not use, interpret, or rely on this response as legal advice or opinion. Do not act on any information in this response without seeking legal advice. Earl K. Mallory, Attorney and Florida Certified General Contactor. ekmlaw@bellsouth.net (561)743-3708.

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