Gone are the days of the renaissance man who could help you install that extra powder room or set you up with some new lighting. With current regulations, individuals working as contractors must be licensed by the state or registered with their municipality. Those found to be contracting without a license can be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony offense and can face significant fines.
Who Needs a Contracting License?
The state of Florida requires that individuals who work in the following construction areas have up-to-date licenses in order to do their jobs:
- Building and home remodeling;
- Building and home repairs;
- New construction; and
- Related real estate improvements.
Licensing is completed through Florida’s DBPR website portal, which also handles licensing for a variety of other professions. Through the DBPR, you can apply to be a specialized contractor (i.e., a roofing contractor, plumbing contractor, electrical contractor, etc.) or a general contractor. You can also choose to be licensed state-wide (a certified license through the DBPR) or just within your area (a registered license via your municipality). If you choose to be a specialized contractor, your license will only cover work that aligns with your specialty. That means that if you do work outside the scope of your license, you could be charged with contracting without a license even though you have a specialized contractor license.
General contractors, on the other hand, can do a variety of tasks under their license.
Does a Handyman Need a Contractor’s License?
If you are a handyman who only does minor repairs, you are not required to carry a contractor’s license. However, if your repairs are larger in scope, it’s a good idea to get a license in order to protect yourself and your business.
What Do You Need to Get a Contractor’s License?
To learn more about the requirements for a specific license, check the DBPR website portal.
In general, you will need to show that you are well-versed in your field and that you have the knowledge to safely do the work that falls within the purview of the license. You will also need to show that you are insured.
Who Can Be Charged with Contracting Without a License?
If you are performing work that falls under one of the categories listed above, you run the risk of being charged with a crime.
Tampa area officials are cracking down on contracting without a license—if you are found to be doing contracting work without the proper license, seek legal help immediately. Not doing so could jeopardize your business and lead to stiff penalties.
It’s not just contracting without a license, though. Prosecutors can compound that one charge and turn it into a much larger case by including theft charges.
Well, if you received payment for your work while contracting without a license and if you led your clients to believe that you were properly licensed, you could also be charged with theft for any of the payments you received for your work during that period that the state has declared you were working without the proper license.
Payments that are less than $300 would be considered petit theft, which is a first-degree misdemeanor. Payments over $300 would be considered grand theft, which is a felony. The severity of the felony charge would increase depending on the amount of the payment.
But what if you’re just helping a friend with their remodel? Can you be charged with contracting without a license? Thankfully, no. As long as you aren’t receiving any compensation, it’s ok to help family and friends with their DIY projects.
What is the Punishment for Contracting Without a License?
Contracting without a license is a first-degree misdemeanor. Those convicted of contracting without a license in Florida face a sentence of up to one year in jail, one year of probation, or $1,000 in fines. The Florida DBPR may also impose its own fines in addition to those imposed by the court.
If there are additional charges, like that of theft mentioned above, the punishment will be worse.
If you are charged with contracting without a license during a state of emergency, rather than facing a first-degree misdemeanor charge, you will face a third-degree felony charge. A conviction on a third-degree felony, which is a Level 1 offense according to the Florida Criminal Punishment code, may lead to a sentence of up to 5 years in prison, five years of probation, or up to $5,000 in fines.
If you have previously been convicted of contracting without a license, you will be charged with a third-degree felony. A conviction may lead to a sentence of up to 5 years in prison, five years of probation, or up to $5,000 in fines. And this is before the issue of payment comes up.
Defending Against a Contracting Without a License Charge
It is possible to defend against a charge of contracting without a license in Florida. It’s crucial to note, however, that because each case is different, seeking the advice of a qualified Tampa defense lawyer should always be your first step.
As with other criminal charges, to defend against a contracting without a license charge, we would look over the procedural elements to determine if there are any challenges we could raise concerning the evidence gathering process.
In addition, if you have not been paid for the contracting work you have done if, for example, you were merely helping a friend out with a demolition project or something in that vein, then we could challenge the charge itself. As mentioned before, it’s ok to help friends and family out with construction projects as long as you aren’t receiving any compensation.
As an alternative, we can also work on your behalf to negotiate with the prosecutor for a lesser charge or a more lenient sentence.
Facing Charges? Seek Legal Advice Now!
If you’ve been charged with contracting without a license, don’t lose hope. Contact Mike G Law for expert advice.