Unlicensed Contracting in Florida
Unlicensed Contracting in Florida in Florida is a Crime. Contracting Without a License, is a crime. To paraphrase, Florida Statute Section 489.127 prohibits any person from:
- Lying about having a license;
- Impersonating a licensee;
- Using someone else’s license;
- Knowingly give false or forged evidence to a board member;
- Use or attempting to use a suspended or revoked license;
- Engage in the business or act as a contractor, or to advertise to do or work as a contractor without being licensed;
- Operate a contracting business without a licensed qualifying agent,
- Failing to get a building permit for work that requires a permit; or
- Willfully or deliberately disregard or violate any municipal or county ordinance relating to uncertified or unregistered contractors.
That’s a lot of prohibits, but Section 489.127 can be broken down into different parts.
Part I: Valid License
The first part deals with pretending to have a valid license. It’s a crime to pretend you are licensed. It’s a crime if you try to use a license that isn’t yours. It’s also a crime if you know you are giving forged documents to a board member. Finally, it is also a crime if you are attempting to use a revoked or suspended license.
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. Again, simply advertising that you are a licensed contractor can create potential criminal liability.
Part III: Catch-All
Finally 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. 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.
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
Section 489.105, Florida Statutes sets forth the full definitions of terms related to contracting and contractors, but the definition of “contracting”, as copied below, illustrates how broad this statute really can be:
Contracting’ means. . .engaging in business as a contractor and includes, but is not limited to, performance of any of the acts [set forth in the] types of contractors [as defined in the Statute]. The attempted sale of contracting services and the negotiation or bid for a contract on these services also constitutes contracting. If the services offered require licensure or agent qualification, the offering, negotiation for a bid, or attempted sale of these services requires the corresponding licensure….
Simply attempted to contract or the negotiation or bid for a contract constitutes contracting!
What 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 maximum penalty of “11/29” (11 months and 29 days in county jail), or a year of probation (or any combination of jail and probation not to exceed one year) in addition to fines, penalties, and court costs.
The Third Degree Felony can result in five years of state prison or five years of probation (or any combination of prison and probation not to exceed five years) in addition to fines, penalties, and court costs.
As you can see, Florida takes unlicensed contracting seriously as evidenced from the first part of 489.127, in which criminal liability attaches prior to 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 irrespective of whether 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.
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