The penalty for hiring unlicensed contractor in Florida, which is an offense that includes a wide range of conduct pertaining to the home improvement and construction industries, is outlined in Florida Statutes Section 489.127.

Overview of Florida Statutes Regarding Unlicensed Contractors

What Unlicensed Contractors Cannot Do

The statutes outline what an unlicensed contractor is not allowed to do. They cannot:

  • Present themselves or a business as the holder of a license, certificate holder, or registrant.
  • Impersonate a registrant or a certificate holder.
  • Present the certificate registration of another person as their own.
  • Knowingly provide false or forged information/evidence to the board or a board member.
  • Attempt to use a revoked or suspended certificate of registration.
  • Engage in business or take on the role of a contractor without having been certified or registered.
  • Perform any work without the required building permit(s).
  • Deliberately ignore or violate any ordinances for the country or municipality relating to unregistered or uncertified contractors.

Note that once a qualifying agent is terminated, the business cannot participate in contracting for 60 days unless another qualifying agent has been designated.

In a nutshell, there are nine ways a person can be in a position to commit a crime by being an unlicensed contractor in Florida. Should proof of such a violate be evident, it is sufficient to sustain a conviction in a court of law.

Unlicensed contracting can be either a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the facts. The first offense can result in a first-degree misdemeanor that will include penalties or the person receiving 12 months of probation, up to one year in jail, and a $1,000 fine. Further offenses are deemed third-degree felonies under Florida Statute 775.083. A third-degree felony can incur up to five years in prison or probation and a $5,000 fine.

Additionally, any offense committed by an unlicensed contractor during a state of emergency declared by the governor is a third-degree felony.

Along with the potential for time in jail and subsequent fines, a person who is either convicted or pleads to a charge of contracting without a license is often subject to court-ordered restitution. Restitution can lead to awards in the tens of thousands of dollars. If the person fails to pay or does not pay in a timely manner, the defendant can be held in contempt of court.

According to Section 713.02(7) of the Florida Statutes, an unlicensed contractor or subcontractor shall have no liens in their favor.

Contracts entered into by an unlicensed contractor are unenforceable in law or in equity. The unlicensed contractor may also lose their bond claim.

Clarification of Definitions

  • Certificate: This is a certificate of competency issued by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.
  • Contracting: The accused engaged in business as a contractor according to the definition of "contractor" in Section 489.105 of the Florida Statutes.
  • Registration: The person has registered with the Department of Business and Professional Regulation in accordance with Florida Statutes.

Allowed to Do

According to Florida Statutes Section 489.101, a contractor is a person or company providing materials or labor to perform a project for compensation. The person will submit a bid and then take on the project themselves or hire others to work on the project, which may include:

  • Construction
  • Repair
  • Alteration
  • Remodeling
  • Additions
  • Demolish
  • Remove
  • Improving a building or structure

Hiring an Unlicensed Contractor

Unlicensed contractors generally do not offer a contract, nor do they have lien rights. Their services are usually less expensive than those of a licensed contractor. Legally, you are not obligated to pay an unlicensed contractor.

Even if you knew the contractor was not licensed before entering into a contract, the contractor and the applicable surety are liable for incomplete work or poor workmanship.

In Florida, a person involved in contracting must be certified, licensed, or registered for the specific areas of the work being performed. The purpose of these requirements is the protection of consumers against those who have not fulfilled the requirements set forth by the State of Florida regarding educational requirements to attain state licensing. These requirements also exist to ensure the safety of Florida citizens.

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