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Nearly every state has license requirements for contractors, and Florida is no exception. Contracting without a license is a serious offense in Florida, and there are a number of ways that you can into trouble. Because the stakes are so high and the penalties are so steep, it’s important to understand exactly what’s required. Let’s take a quick look at how to get licensed, exceptions to licensure requirements, and the harsh penalties that can be incurred.

The Construction Industry Licensing Board (CILB) runs the show when it comes to getting a Florida contractor’s license. It’s responsible for licensing and regulating the construction industry in Florida.  Thus, any conversation about a Florida contractor’s license must first begin with the CILB.

The CILB meets regularly to consider applications, review disciplinary cases, and conduct hearings related to licensure and discipline. Their headquarters of the Department of Professions is headquartered in Tallahassee, but they have field offices spread across the State. As we’ve discussed in a past article (linked below), the CILB has been known to even run sting operations to catch unlicensed contractors.


Related: Unlicensed Florida Contractors Can’t File Liens – But That’s The Least of Their Worries


While running stings now and again might help curb the number of unlicensed contractors, it’s easiest for owners, subs, and suppliers to avoid the issue of licensure altogether. By performing a Florida contractors license search, everyone on a job can be sure that they’re working with a reputable contractor. Considering it only takes one bad contractor to force an owner to double-pay or leave a sub or supplier unpaid, it’s probably worth double-checking.

Luckily, the Department of Business & Professional Regulation makes it easy to perform a Florida contractor’s license search and verify the license status of a contractor. The website also makes it easy to lodge complaints. For those contractors looking to get licensed, the site also provides an opportunity to apply for a license online.

How to get a contractors license in Florida

Florida Certified Contractor Construction Industry Licensing Board

Florida’s rules and laws around contracting can seem a bit confusing. They have registries and certifications, each of which goes through the same department but uses different application processes. Also, one allows you to work in a local area, while the other will enable you to work statewide — yet they both require you to pass the same written tests.

Registered licenses

If you only want to work in a localized area, you can get by with a registered license. These licenses are provided by the Florida Construction Industry Licensing Board, and they apply to both general contractors and sub trades.

There are several different applications to choose from, including:

  • Air conditioning
  • Building
  • General
  • Glass and glazing
  • Mechanical
  • Plumbing
  • Pool/spa
  • Precision tank tester
  • Residential
  • Roofing
  • Sheet metal
  • Specialty
  • Tank lining applicator
  • Underground utility and excavation

Before you apply for any of these licenses, there are a few requirements that you must meet.

First and foremost, you must receive a Certificate of Competency issued after taking a test before applying for registration.

You’ll also need:

  • Fingerprints
  • Proof of financial stability and decent credit
  • Proof of public liability and property damage insurance as well as a workers compensation insurance policy or an exemption
  • Be 18 years of age
  • Pay the fees required by each individual application

In the case of a registered general contractor, they’ll use this application, and the fee is $309 as of April 30, 2019.

Plumbing contractors will use this application, and the fee is $309 as of April 30, 2019.

Other trades will have to find their applicable applications through the CILB website.

Certified licenses

Contractors that wish to work state-wide will have to go through the CILB for a certified license. Again, this applies to general contractors and sub-trades, and each has its own license to apply for.

There are several certified licenses to apply for, and they include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Building
  • General
  • Glass and glazing
  • Mechanical
  • Plumbing
  • Pollutant storage system
  • Pool/spa
  • Residential
  • Roofing
  • Sheet metal
  • Solar specialty 
  • Underground utility and excavation

Again, the CILB has certain requirements that you must meet, and they include:

  • Passing a licensure exam for a certified contractor
  • Four years of experience or a combination of college and experience
  • Financial stability and decent credit
  • Fingerprints
  • Pay any applicable fees
  • Be 18 years of age
  • Proof of public liability and property damage insurance as well as a workers compensation insurance policy or an exemption

General contractors will fill out this application, and the fee ranges between $149 and $249, depending on the time of year you apply.

Plumbing contractors will fill out this application, and the fees, again, range between $149 and $249.

All other subcontractors will have to find their application through the CILB website.

Electrical contractors

Remember how we said licensing in Florida could get confusing? Well, electrical licensing is no different. Contractors looking for electrical licenses in Florida will still have to choose between registering and certifying, and both are still handled under the CILB.

However, there’s an extra layer: The Electrical Contractor Licensing Board. But the process doesn’t change all that much.

Both registered and certified contractors can apply for the following licenses:

  • Alarm System I
  • Alarm System II
  • Electrical
  • Specialty

Electrical contractors looking for a registered license will apply using this application, and fees include $155 for initial registration and $25 for additional counties.

Electrical contractors interested in applying for certified licenses will use this application, and the fee is $316.25. Both license types require the applicant to pass an examination, as well.

Florida’s Handyman Exception

Florida statutes do provide an exception for “basic handyman services.” There is no limit to the contract amount, but it does limit the types of services you can provide. 

For example, to fall under this exception, you cannot work on:

  • Foundations
  • Structural walls
  • Plumbing
  • Electrical
  • Asbestos abatement
  • Other tasks that specifically require licenses

If you aren’t performing the work described above, you might not need a Florida contractor’s license. However, you still need to acquire a business license in order to operate your business.

Keep in mind, although the “handyman exception” allows you to perform work not included for state licensing purposes, there are some counties that will still require a license. For instance, Lee County requires painters to get a license to perform work in the county. So make sure to check your county license board to be certain whether you need an additional license or not.

Penalties for unlicensed construction work in Florida

The State of Florida takes unlicensed contract work very seriously. A first offense is considered a 1st-degree misdemeanor which provides for up to a year of jail time or probation. If you commit any further offenses (or if you perform unlicensed work during a declared state of emergency), the state considers it a 3rd-degree felony upping the jail time or probation to 5 years! You are also subjecting yourself to civil penalties that can be up to $10,000.

That’s not all folks. In addition to the penalties and fees, you may also lose many rights as well.

First off, any contract (performed or not) is automatically unenforceable by law or by equity. That means you can’t force someone to honor your contract, and you can’t look to a legal tool such as unjust enrichment to recover payment. Also, any lien or bond claims/rights that you may have had are gone as well. If you did happen to get paid, you’re still not out of the clear. If your work was faulty or defective, a court can award treble (that means triple!) damages to the owner. Plus, they can also force you to return any money paid under the contract.

The penalties for unlicensed contracting in FL are severe, so make sure you’ve got your Florida contractor’s license if you need one. 

Additional resources

Licensing and application requirements can get complicated. We get questions all the time regarding Florida licensing requirements in our Community forum.

Another helpful resource comes straight from the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) website. They have a great support function where more nuanced questions can be asked, and answers can be searched by keywords.

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Florida Contractor's License: Requirements, Exceptions, and Penalties
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Do you need a Florida contractor's license to perform construction work? Understanding Florida's contractor license requirements is extremely important as the penalties are potentially severe.
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levelset
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