Hurricane Ian created billions of dollars of damages to homes, buildings, and a variety of structures throughout Florida. As the construction industry mobilizes to assist with cleanup and restoration, it is important for out-of-state contractors to understand the complexity and enforcement of Florida’s construction licensing laws.
Florida’s construction licensing is governed by Chapters 455 and 489, Florida Statutes. It provides that anyone engaged in construction must have the appropriate license. The definition of “contractor” under Section 489.105, Florida Statutes, requires that any person who seeks to "construct, repair, alter, remodel, add to, demolish, subtract from, or improve any building or structure” must have a license.
In Florida, licensure is divided into two divisions: Division I consists of residential, building, and general contractors who have the ability to work on structures subject to their intended use and height requirements. They have the ability to perform all work that is not under Division II or subcontract that work to the appropriate contractor that is licensed in that specialty. Examples of Division II contractors include roofing, HVAC, mechanical, solar, and similar trades. Electrical contractors are governed by a separate section of Chapter 489 but have similar requirements.
In the State of Florida, a licensed roofing contractor cannot supervise the work of unlicensed roofing labor – the labor must be licensed as well. In other words, a licensed roofing contractor can only legally subcontract to another licensed roofing contractor. This nuance is often missed by many Florida licensed roofing contractors.
Since Hurricane Ian, I have received dozens of call from out-of-state contractors looking to come into Florida to do work. The first thing an out-of-state contractor should know is that the same rules apply to out-of-state contractors and there is not a “hurricane exception.” In fact, if you are an unlicensed contractor performing work during a state of emergency such as post-Hurricane Ian cleanup, it is a third-degree felony. See Section 489.127(2)(c). Unlicensed contractors should also know that the licensing requirement is actively enforced and often checked before you enter storm-damaged zones.
How can you do work as an out-of-state contractor? If you are unlicensed but doing non-specialty work like demolition, drywall, carpentry or masonry, you can work under the supervision of a licensed Florida contractor. You will need a subcontract agreement and you will also want to verify that you have commercial general liability and workers’ compensation insurance (Florida endorsed) that is legally sufficient to work in Florida – check with your insurance agent ahead of time.
If you are doing Division II work, you will need to either be licensed or be working as a W2 employee of a licensed Division II contractor. For example, an out-of-state roofing contractor could work for a Florida licensed roofing contractor by having its employees be placed on payroll, properly insured, and paid as employees under the licensed roofing contractor.
If you have any questions or need clarification, myfloridalicense.com provides detailed guidance on licensing do’s and don’ts. Florida does enforce its rules and, in addition to state licensing being actively reviewed, you should anticipate increased OSHA inspections from the Florida regional offices.
The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.
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