Florida contractors review construction project plans

In July 2020, Florida changed its contractor licensing statute with respect to license reciprocity. The new rules make it easier for out-of-state contractors — who have been licensed in other states for at least 10 years — to obtain a Florida contractor’s license without having to take a licensing exam. 

Read the Guide to Florida’s Contractor Licensing Rules

This new law applies to any contractor who would be eligible for a license under Chapter 489, Florida Statutes, including building contractors, HVAC contractors, pool contractors, electrical contractors, plumbing contractors, and many more! 

As part of this new statute, Florida’s Construction Industry Licensing Board is required to seek out and enter into formal reciprocity agreements with other states. Due to the newness of the statute, Florida has not yet done this. But if you have been licensed for at least 10 years, you still can apply to become licensed in Florida without taking an exam.

11 requirements for contractor license reciprocity in Florida 

In order to take advantage of this new statute, out-of-state license holders must meet the following requirements to obtain a Florida licensed contractor.

1. Licensed for 10 years

Contractors must have been licensed in their home state for 10 years, and in the same category that you will be applying for in Florida.

This means that if you’ve been licensed for 10 years (or more) as an HVAC contractor, you would be eligible to apply for that same license in Florida. You cannot use a license as one trade to apply for a license as another trade.

Further, Florida has multiple classes of licenses, so you need to check the definition of the type of work governed by each license class to see which one best fits your existing license.

2. Active within past 2 years

The existing license must be active or have been active within the last two years.

3. Continuing Education

Certified General, Building, Residential, and Roofing contractors must take a two-hour DBPR-approved course on the Florida Building Code, including information on wind mitigation techniques.

In an interesting twist, no continuing education unit (CEU) providers appear to be offering this class. But several of them offer two-hour courses on the Florida Building Code, as well as two-hour courses on wind mitigation techniques. So for four hours of classes, you can meet this requirement. Most classes can be taken online and are not expensive. 

4. Pay the filing fee

Contractors must pay a filing fee to the Florida Division of Business and Professional Regulation. This fee is currently $350.

5. Get electronic fingerprints

Obtain electronic fingerprints from a Florida Department of Law Enforcement-approved vendor. Learn more about electronic fingerprinting and approved vendors on the DBPR FAQ page.

6. Submit a personal credit report

Submit a personal credit report from an approved vendor. You cannot order your own report online, print it, and submit it. View the list of approved credit-reporting agencies that will submit your report directly to the DBPR.

If your credit score is below 660, you will need to obtain a contractor’s bond in the amount of $10,000-$20,000, depending on license type. This can be cut in half by taking a 14-hour financial responsibility course from an approved vendor. View a list of approved schools and instructors.

7. Submit a business credit report

Submit a credit report for your business if you plan to operate in Florida through a business entity.

8. Register your business

Register your business entity in Florida. In Florida, licenses are issued to individuals and are then connected to a business entity through “qualification.” This means that your Florida license can be connected to you, to your existing business entity, or to a new entity.

It is important to make sure to handle this part of the process correctly, because the name on your license must match the name on your contracts and advertisements. 

9. Clear security

You will need to pass a background check.

10. Buy liability insurance

Have commercial general liability insurance with limits ranging from $100,000 to $300,000, depending on license type. 

Learn more: What’s the difference between a bond and insurance?

11. Obtain workers’ compensation insurance

Unless you’re exempt, you will need to acquire workers’ comp insurance as well.

Stay tuned for updates

Since this is a new statute and new process, applications are just now being accepted. We will keep you posted on updates, but if you are planning to apply for a new license in Florida, we recommend that you consult with a licensed Florida construction attorney for assistance.