Updates to Florida Contractor’s Licensing Requirements: What It Means For Local Licensed Contractors

Until recently, all Florida contractors, including painters and plasterers, were mandated to be licensed and registered to work throughout the entire state. Like the state’s construction law in general, its long list of tasks that do or don’t require a contractor license has often been confusing. For instance, a general contractor license is required to construct a carport at the end of a driveway, but one isn’t needed to build the driveway itself. A state-wide license isn’t necessary to put down flooring, but it is needed for installing drywall.

A state statute that went into effect on July 1, 2021, aimed to simplify local contractor licensing rules and reduce government regulations of certain “non-structural” contractors. It will eliminate nearly all local contractor licenses by 2023 and makes clear only certain types of contractors are required to have licenses.

Florida Construction Law: General Contractor Licenses

In Florida, contractor licensing is done both at the state and local levels. Persons who want to perform covered contracting work anywhere in the state need a “Certified License;” to work in a specific city or county, they need a “Registered License.” The Construction Industry Licensing Board under the guidance of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation handles the licensing process for the two types of licenses.

Contractor licenses are further broken down into two divisions:

  1. Division I contractors include general, building, and residential contractors.
  2. Division II contractors are field-specific and include areas like air conditioning contractors, plumbing contractors, and roofing contractors.

To obtain a certified Florida contractor license, you must pass relevant Division I or II examinations, with the only exception being pool contractors.

What is a Non-Structural Contractor?

Non-structural alterations or improvements mean contracting work that doesn’t materially affect any part of a “baes building system.” In essence, structural work refers to internal or external load-bearing building components that are essential to its stability either wholly or partly, including foundations, beams, columns, walls, floors, and roofs. Non-structural building elements include internal doors, ceilings, windows, and other components that directly cater to people’s needs.

Florida’s Contractor Licensing Law Revisions

Prior to the new law’s enactment, local counties and municipalities were permitted to require people to obtain different types of contractor licenses that weren’t mandated by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (“DBPR”). For instance, some local governments required the issuance of contractor licenses for simple home improvements like erecting a fence or painting a house.

With the passage of section 163.21 of the Florida Statutes, licensing for certain occupations is expressly reserved to the state and replaces or supersedes local government licensing requirements, with two exceptions:

  1. Any local government licenses in effect as of January 1, 2021, are allowed, but they expire on July 1, 2023.
  2. Any local government licenses authorized by general law.

Furthermore, while local licenses can continue until mid-2023, local governments cannot modify existing licensing requirements or create new licensing requirements, and they are prohibited from enforcing local licensing requirements not authorized by the new law.

The new regulation also alters Chapter 489 (Section 489.117) of the Florida Statutes which covers the registration of specialty contractors. It limits local licensing by governments and, in many cases, prohibits it. The law now states that job scopes for which a local government may not require a license include, but are not limited to:

  • Cabinetry
  • Canvas awning and ornamental iron installation
  • Caulking
  • Decorative stone, tile, marble, granite, or terrazzo installations
  • Driveway or tennis court installations
  • Flooring
  • Handyman services
  • Interior remodeling
  • Painting
  • Plastering
  • Stuccoing

Local governments are permitted, however, to issue journeyman licenses in the mechanical, plumbing, pipefitting, or HVAC trades, as well as the alarm and electrical system trades.

Under the new law, local governments are also now prohibited from requiring someone to obtain a license for work that doesn’t substantially correspond to the job scope of a:

  • General contractor
  • Building contractor
  • Residential contractor
  • Sheet metal contractor
  • Roofing contractor
  • Class A, B, or C air-conditioning contractor
  • Mechanical contractor
  • Commercial pool/spa contractor
  • Residential pool/spa contractor
  • Swimming pool/spa servicing contractor
  • Plumbing contractor
  • Underground utility and excavation contractor
  • Solar contractor
  • Specialty contractor as defined by Fla. Stat. § 489.117(4)(a).

The bottom line? What this latest update means is that for many specialty contractors, previous licensing requirements are eliminated. Further, from the statute’s wording, it appears a state license will also not be required for these trades. In other words, unless there’s a specific state license required under Chapter 489, Florida Statutes, for the work you want to perform, you likely can carry out the work without a license.

Learn More About Updates to Florida’s Contractor Licensing Law

As always, if you have questions about whether the work you’re performing requires a license under Florida’s contractor licensing requirements, the business attorneys at Munizzi Law Firm can advise you on construction law and regulatory compliance. Contact us today to learn more or to schedule a consultation.