In order to run a profitable, sustainable business as a licensed general contractor in Florida you need to comply with the relevant regulations for the state. This includes holding the correct permits and licenses. Florida State’s licensing requirements are specific and, depending on the nature of your work; you may need a different license in order to work legally.
Contracting without a license in Florida is a serious offense, and the penalties are severe. For this reason, it’s important to understand who monitors compliance, what the different licenses are, as well as the consequences for non-compliance.
Who Monitors Contractor License Compliance?
In Florida, applying for a contractor license is done with the Construction Industry Licensing Board (CILB) headquartered in Tallahassee with field offices throughout the State. They are responsible for licensing and regulating the construction industry. They meet regularly to consider applications, adjudicate on disciplinary cases as well as conducting licensing and discipline hearings.
Their website offers the functionality to perform a Florida contractor license search which makes it easy for all parties involved in a project to verify that they are working with a contractor who holds a valid general contractors license. It’s an important check as it can help protect an owner from having to double-pay, and also reduces the risk of a subcontractor or supplier not being paid by the general contractor. The website also allows complaints to be lodged and has a portal for contractor license applications.
What are the Different General Contractor Licenses?
In Florida the law provides for two different license classifications:
- ‘Certified’ – a certified contractor license is valid throughout Florida
- ‘Registered’ – a registered contractor license limits the license holder to specific local jurisdictions.
Certified Contractors in Florida
To become a certified contractor in Florida, one must first pass the Florida State Certification Exam. The content covered depends on whether your application is for a Division I or Division II license.
For Division I license (general building and residential contractors), the exam consists of:
- Project management
- Contract administration
- Finance and business
A Division II exam (for trade-specific contractors such as plumbing, pool installations, drywall, and HVAC), there are two sections:
- Business and finance
- Trade knowledge
Registered Florida Contractors
Registered contractors must either have passed the Certification exam or hold a Certificate of Competency (which are issued by the local licensing office). Once this exam is passed one then submits a full application to the CILB in Florida along with:
- Proof of experience (minimum of 4 years or a combination of college and work experience)
- Credit report
- Fingerprints (for background checks)
- Proof of insurance (both public liability and property damage insurance that must be valid when the application is submitted.
What are the Penalties for Non-Compliance?
The State of Florida takes contract work done without a license seriously. For first time offenders, there is provision for up to a year of jail time or probation. Further offenses are considered a third-degree felony with jail time or probation of up to five years. Also, one can be liable for civil penalties of up to $10,000. An unlicensed contractor will also forgo rights as any contracts are unenforceable by law and liens are no longer valid. Also, if your work is found to be faulty or defective, treble damages can be awarded to the owner (and the contractor may have to return any payments made).
Navigating red tape and state bureaucracy can be frustrating, not to mention confusing. The team at in Tampa have been helping general contractors in Florida apply for licenses and permits for over 50 years. They’re ready to help you get your paperwork in order and assist with keeping your licensing up-to-date as well as ensuring that your permits are all in order. They understand that you need to be able to focus on building your business, without worrying about whether or not you are in compliance with Florida’s Construction Industry Licensing Board.