Unlicensed Contracting in Florida Covers More Than Doing The Work!
Believe it or not, but doing certain construction activities in Florida without being licensed in a crime! And you don’t even have to pick up a hammer to violate the statute.
In fact, if you knowingly give false or forged evidence to a member of the Department of Business and Professional Regulations board, you use or even attempt to use a suspended or revoked license, or you either try to act as a contractor, or you simply advertise to work as a contractor is enough to get you into trouble. But that’s not saying all construction related work requires a license. Traditional handyman or flooring work does not require a license.
The statute also makes it a crime to operate a contracting business without a qualifying agent, failing to get a building permit, or if you willfully or deliberately violate any municipal or county ordinance related to unlicensed contracting.
Florida Statute Section 489.127 is fairly complex. But it can be broken down into more manageable parts:
Part I: Valid License
The first part deals with pretending to have a valid license. So, if you lie about having a license, impersonate someone that is licensed, or you try to use someone else’s license you can be accused of unlicensed contracting.
It’s also considered a crime if you know you are giving false or forged documents to a board member, which can be related to a license or not. Finally, it is also a crime if you are attempting to use a revoked or suspended license.
Notice, I didn’t say you had to do any work to commit those violations! The statute is much broader than actually doing work. And those are just a couple of examples.
Part II: Advertising
The next part of 489.127 deals with more advertising, but also includes actual construction work. It’s a crime if someone simply advertises that they can do licensed work or are in that business if they don’t have the proper license. Obviously, it is also a crime if they actual act in that capacity.
Just to be clear: Simply advertising that you are a licensed contractor or you bid for work that requires a license, can create potential criminal liability if you don’t have a valid license.
Part III: Catch-All
And then there are the ‘catch-all’ provisions. These sections make it a crime to willfully or deliberately disregard or violate any municipal or county ordinance relating to uncertified or unregistered contractors. This simply means you can face prosecution as an unlicensed contractor if you violate local laws related to contracting.
Next is failing to get a building permit. Even if you are licensed, if you fail to get a building permit when one is required, then arguably you have violated 489.127, which could lead to prosecution.
Note: there is some disagreement between the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (“DBPR”), the licensing board overseeing Florida Contractors, and some law enforcement as to whether this subsection applies to licensed contractors or just unlicensed contractors.
Definition of Contracting
The statutes definition of Contracting is incredibly broad. Contracting in Florida is defined as:
– engaging in business as a contractor
– includes performance of any of the acts
– The attempted sale of contracting services
– The negotiation or bid for a contract on these services also constitutes contracting.
– If the services offered requires a license or qualifying agent, then the offering, negotiation for a bid, or attempted sale of those services requires a license.
Again, just so we are clear: Simply attempted to contract or the negotiation or bid for a contract constitutes contracting!
So What Contracting Requires a License in Florida?
Generally the following jobs require a license:
- Roofing work: any permanent repairs. Dry-in is permissible by unlicensed persons (use of tarps, plastic sheeting, or other temporary materials solely for the purpose of preventing further damage).
- Plumbing: any work that requires a permit or is over $1,000.00.
- Electrical: any electrical item that becomes fabricated into the structure.
- HVAC: any major hvac repair or replacements.
An arrest for unlicensed contracting can result in a conviction of either a felony or a misdemeanor depending on whether the accused has a previous conviction for unlicensed contracting. A first degree misdemeanor of this kind can result in a year in jail, probation, or both up to one year total. That is in addition to fines, penalties, and court costs. But the local government can also go after you with a civil citation too. That can run over $1,000.00!
The Third Degree Felony can result in five years in state prison, probation, or both up to five years total. That’s also in addition to fines, penalties, and court costs. The local government can also hit you with the civil citation, too.
As you can see, Florida takes unlicensed contracting seriously! Criminal liability attaches well before the first hammer-swing.
State of Emergency
If someone is accused of committing the crime of Unlicensed Contracting in Florida during a declared state of emergency, then the crime is automatically enhanced to a third degree felony. It doesn’t matter if the person has a prior conviction of unlicensed contracting. The enhancement is automatic, whether or not the accused has a prior conviction for Unlicensed Contracting in Florida.
Why Should You Hire an Experienced Trial Lawyer?
Hiring a lawyer that has actual experience in handling Unlicensed Contracting cases in Florida may be the difference between prison and a more favorable result. I have personally tried these types of cases, both as a prosecutor and a defense lawyer. As a defense attorney, I have drafted and argued motions that have resulted in actual dismissals of all charges against my clients, or reduced the charges.
I have successfully handled Unlicensed Contracting Cases throughout Sarasota and Manatee Florida. If you have been accused of this type of crime, call me immediately to discuss your case. Let my experience handling these cases from both sides of the aisle assist you in preparing your best defense.