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What Are Florida Contractors?

The Department of Business and Professional Regulation is responsible for the licensing and regulation of over 1.4 million professionals across more than 30 fields of industry in the State of Florida. These fields include architecture, interior design, home inspection, and construction. Professionals in the construction industry are generally referred to as contractors. In the State of Florida, a contractor is defined as any individual that builds, improves, subtracts from, or demolishes any structure or building for compensation, and all contractors are statutorily required to obtain a contractor’s license before they can operate. The Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s Construction Industry Licensing Board is specifically tasked with ensuring compliance with this law, and it is estimated that there are approximately 74,900 licensed contractors in the state. Note that the Department of Business and Professional Regulation is not the only agency that licenses professionals in the State of Florida. For example, the Florida Board of Pharmacy and the Florida Bar license and regulate pharmacists and attorneys respectively. According to the American Bar Association, Florida has an attorney rate of 3.7 per 1,000 residents, with more than 79,300 licensed attorneys currently practicing in the state.

Tips for Hiring a Contractor
in Florida

Contractors in the State of Florida are generally grouped into two categories, Certified Contractors and Registered Contractors. Certified contractors can work anywhere in the state, while registered contractors can only work in specified counties, cities, or municipalities. Before you hire a contractor in the State of Florida, you should do the following:

  • Ask to see a state-issued contractor’s license and verify this license via the Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s licensee search portal or by calling (850) 487-1395. If the contractor has a registered contractor’s license, then make sure that this license covers your area of residence
  • Request references from the contractor
  • Get written estimates from several contractors. Ensure that these estimates include the scope of the work, the materials that will be used for the job, a projected completion date, and the total cost of the project
  • Find out if your insurance will cover the cost of the project. It is a good idea to keep this information to yourself until you get an estimate from the contractor
  • Contact your local building department to find out if there are any permits and local licensing requirements for the project that you want to carry out.
  • Be wary of contractors that want you to obtain building permits by yourself
  • Be wary of contractors that claim to be faster and cheaper than other contractors
  • Never pay cash for home improvement or repair projects and never pay for the full cost of the project before it is properly completed
  • Request a copy of the contractor’s insurance certificate and make sure that it is valid. Contractors are generally required to have workman's compensation, property damage, and liability insurance
  • Always collect a written contract for the project and make sure that it contains information like the name, address, and phone number and license number of the contractor, warranty agreements, responsibility for post-job clean up, and a notice of consumer rights under the Florida Homeowners' Construction Recovery Fund.
  • Properly read and understand any contract before signing it. The State of Florida has a cooling-off rule that allows consumers to cancel contracts for home improvement and repair services that cost more than $25. Note that this cancellation must be made in writing to the contractor not later than midnight of the third business day after the contract was signed. It is advisable to get an attorney to help you review any contract that you are given to ensure that there are no hidden clauses and terms that may not be suitable for you

How to Search A Contractor's License in Florida?

Florida contractors are required to obtain a license from the Construction Industry Licensing Board (CILB) to practice in the state. There are two categories of licensing in Florida: Registered and Certified. While certified contractors are permitted to work in any jurisdiction in the state, registered contractors are limited to work in specific, local jurisdictions.

To verify a contractor's license in Florida, call the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) at (850) 487-1395 or visit their website at www.myfloridalicense.com to use their Licensee Search page. DBPR also has a mobile app for the public to verify their contractor's license status. You will require the contractor's name, license number, license type, city or county to perform a quick search.

Contracting without a license in Florida is a first-degree misdemeanor punishable with up to a year of jail or probation. On Subsequent violations, unlicensed contractors could be charged for a third-degree felony, and penalties can be up to five years jail time and $10,000 in fines. To report an unlicensed contractor in Florida, contact the DBPR at (866) 532-1440 or by emailing ULA@myfloridalicense.com.

How Much Does a Contractor Charge in
Florida?

Contractors in the State of Florida typically charge an average of $50 - $100 per hour for their services. Note that this figure is largely dependent on your location and the type of project. Likewise, the total amount that you will end up paying also depends on factors like the type of materials required for the project and the cost of these materials. Some common contractor hourly cost estimates in the State of Florida include:

Carpenters
$65 - $95
Concrete contractors
$45 - $90
Domestic services contractors
$65 - $95
Drywall installation/repair contractors
$35 - $75
Electricians
$65 - $110
Flooring contractors
$65 - $125
HVAC contractors
$75 - $105
Interior and exterior finishing contractors
$50 - $150
Landscape contractors
$45 - $85
Masonry contractors
$40 - $60
Painters
$40 - $70
Paving installation/repair contractors
$125 - $250
Plumbing contractors
$80 - $125
Roofing contractors
$55 - $130
Security system installation contractors
$60 - $100

Alternatively, some contractors may charge you a percentage of the total cost of the project instead of an hourly fee. This percentage usually ranges from 10% to 20%, but it can go as high as 30%. This method of billing is also used by attorneys for certain matters, especially cases that involve financial compensation. However, if you retain the services of a Florida attorney for relatively simple tasks like drafting and reviewing contracts, then you may be charged a flat fee of $100 - $200. Florida attorneys also employ an hourly fee structure when charging clients. The average hourly fee rate for Florida attorneys is $250 - $300 per hour.

What Are Home Improvement
Scams in Florida?

According to the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, Americans spend more than $400 billion every year on home improvements and repairs. Unfortunately, undertaking these home improvement and repair projects also opens you up to the risk of being scammed by an unscrupulous contractor. These home improvement scams typically involve the contractor collecting money without completing the project or deliberately doing a poor job to ensure return business.

To reduce the probability of falling victim to a home improvement scam in the State of Florida, you should always make sure that any contractor you hire is properly licensed by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. Request for the contractor’s license number and verify its validity. You should always be wary of contractors that request cash payments, demand full payment upfront, or insist that you do not need a written contract. It is also a good idea to get an attorney to properly review any contracts that you are given not later than three business days after you may have signed the contract. Within this timeframe, you can still legally cancel the contract if you discover any hidden clauses that are not suitable for you.

You can report any unlicensed contractor activity in the State of Florida to the Department of Business and Professional Regulation via email. Note that while these reports remain anonymous, email addresses are public records in the State of Florida. To circumvent this, you can make reports by calling (866) 532-1440 or by mailing a completed Uniform Complaint Form to:

  • Unlicensed Activity Program
  • Department of Business and Professional Regulation
  • 2601 Blair Stone Road
  • Tallahassee, FL 32399-2212

Finally, you can also file a complaint with the Office of the Attorney General of Florida online or by calling (866) 966-7226.

Professional License Search

What are Common Home Improvement Scams in Florida?

Fraudulent contractors in the State of Florida use various methods to carry out their home improvement scams. In many cases, home improvement scams are targeted at elderly Floridians, because it is believed that they are less likely to report these scams. One popular method involves the contractors offering free or discounted prices for an initial inspection and then suddenly discovering a problem in their victims’ homes that require urgent repair. Regardless of the method chosen by these fraudulent contractors, they generally tend to have certain characteristics that can be used in spotting them. If a contractor displays any of the following characteristics, you should consider it a red flag:

  • The contractor claims to be doing door-to-door work in your neighborhood
  • The contractor shows up in an unmarked vehicle or in a vehicle that has out-of-state tags
  • The contractor does not display a license number in any advertisements or postings
  • The contractor claims to be licensed and insured but can only provide either an occupational license or a corporate filing instead of a Department of Business and Professional Regulation license. If your contractor has a DBPR license, it is also a good idea to verify its validity either online or by calling (850) 487-1395
  • The contractor wants most or all of the money for the project upfront
  • The contractor insists on cash payments or a check made payable to an individual
  • The contractor tries to convince you that you do not need a written contract
  • The contractor tries to pressure or scare you into making a decision

Note that there is no limit placed on the amount of money that a contractor can request as upfront payment in the State of Florida. However, per Florida Statutes Chapter 489.126, any contractor that asks for more than 10% upfront payment for home improvement or repair services must apply for any permits needed for the project not later than 30 days after this payment is made and begin working on the project not later than 90 days after these permits have been issued. Similarly, contractors that receive total payment for a home improvement that is in excess of the value of the work performed must complete the project within 90 days or any timeframe that is specified in the contract. If your contractor fails to comply with these laws, then you are required to write a letter demanding that the contractor either complies or refunds the payment. Contractors that do not comply with this written demand can face the following criminal charges:

  • First-degree misdemeanor charges for payments that are less than $1,000
  • Third-degree felony charges for payments that are more than $1,000 but less than $20,000
  • Second-degree felony charges for payments that are more than $20,000 but less than $200,000
  • First-degree felony charges for payments that are $200,000 and above

Since 2011, the Consumer Protection Division of the Office of the Attorney General of Florida has recovered more than $10 billion from fraudulent contractors and other individuals or entities that were involved in deceptive, unfair, and fraudulent business acts. In 2019, the Office of the Attorney General of Florida announced the creation of a Senior Protection Team aimed at protecting elderly Floridians against fraud and abuse. Barely two months later, the team made its first arrest with the case of a contractor that defrauded an elder Floridian to the tune of $5,000. In June 2020, the Office of the Attorney General of Florida announced the arrest of a fraudulent HVAC contractor that employed high-pressure and scare tactics to scam Floridians into paying for products and services that they did not need. According to this announcement, a majority of this contractor’s victims were elder citizens. Between July 1, 2019, and June 30, 2020, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation also conducted 430 sweeps, 17 enforcement operations, and initiated 302 cases involving unlicensed and possibly fraudulent contractor activities in the State of Florida.

What are Disaster Scams in Florida?

In the State of Florida, there is typically a high demand for qualified contractors to carry out much-needed home repairs after disasters like fires and hurricanes. Unfortunately, this also presents an opportunity for scam artists and fraudulent contractors to take advantage of distressed and unsuspecting homeowners. Listed below are steps that you can take to avoid falling victim to these disaster scams if your home has been affected by a disaster:

  • Be wary of unsolicited contractors, especially if these contractors claim that they can perform discounted repairs with leftover materials and supplies from a previous job
  • Get your insurance company to evaluate the damage and clarify whether the work will be covered by your insurance policy
  • Get written estimates or bids from at least three contractors
  • Make sure that your contractor has a valid license
  • Find out whether any complaints have been filed against the contractor by calling the Office of the Attorney General of Florida at (866) 999-7226
  • Request references from the contractor. You can also carry out research online to ascertain the contractor's reputation
  • Request proof of insurance and bonding and make sure that they are valid
  • Never pay the full amount or a large deposit for the project upfront
  • Be wary of any contractor that tries to get you to sign or use an Assignment of Benefits before carrying out any repairs. You should also never sign any Assignment of Benefits document that has blank spaces in it
  • Read and understand any contract that you are given before signing it. Make sure that the contract contains your cancellation rights and any penalties that may be involved in doing so. It is advisable to get an attorney to help you with this step
  • Make sure that any liens placed on your property are released before making any final payments. This is important if the cost of the project is more than $2,500. Per the Florida Construction Lien Law, you can be held liable if your contractor fails to pay any suppliers or subcontractors. Insisting on a release of lien frees you from this liability
  • Do not make final payment or sign a certificate of completion until you are satisfied with the work that has been done by the contractor

You can report any suspected disaster scams or price gouging carried out by fraudulent contractors to the Office of the Attorney General of Florida by calling (866) 999-7226.

What are Common Legal
Work Scams in Florida?

Legal work scams are fraudulent activities that are carried out through law-related means or methods. The most common examples of these types of scams in the State of Florida are:

  • Jury duty scam: this scam is targeted at Floridians that are eligible for jury duty, and it involves the scammer calling a potential victim and claiming that a warrant has been issued for the arrest of this individual for missing jury duty. The scammer claims to be a court official or a law enforcement officer and states that the victim must pay a fine to avoid this arrest. Many times, the scammer uses caller ID spoofing technology to deceive the victim into thinking that the call is authentic
  • Legal representation scam: this scam is targeted at licensed attorneys. Here, the scammer claims to require the services of an attorney to close a case or receive a settlement. The scammer then sends a check for this settlement to the attorney and requests that the attorney wire the cash equivalent minus any attorney fees back. However, this check is always fake
  • Attorney impersonation scam: this scam is targeted at unsuspecting individuals that require genuine legal assistance. Scammers pretend to be attorneys by setting up fake law firm websites or cloning actual websites and fraudulently using this to book appointments with potential victims. Many times, these victims end up pay attorney-related costs like initial consultation fees and retainers before realizing that they have been scammed

To avoid falling victim to a legal work scam, you should do the following:

  • Never divulge any personal information to any person that calls you and claims to be a court official
  • Hang up as soon as an unknown caller makes threats or requests payment to avoid arrest
  • Contact your Office of the Court Clerk for your county to verify if you missed a jury duty summons
  • Be wary of unsolicited calls or messages that offer opportunities that seem too good to be true
  • Confirm that any attorney you intend to hire is licensed to practice law in the State of Florida through the Florida Bar’s find a lawyer online portal
  • File a complaint online with the Office of the Attorney General of Florida concerning any suspected or actual legal work scams. You can also do this via phone number (866) 966-7226

How Long Does it Take to Get a Contractor License in
Florida?

Per Florida Statutes Chapter 120.60, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation is statutorily required to process license applications within 30 days, starting from the day the application is received. During this time, the agency may either request additional information or notify the applicant of any errors or omissions. After all necessary corrections and additional information has been submitted, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation must either approve or deny the application within 90 days. Contractors that have submitted applications for licenses can view the status of these applications online.

How to Maintain Your License in Florida

After being issued a license, contractors are required to report changes in the information that was used to obtain the license. Contractors can also change the status of their licenses from active to inactive, and vice versa. These actions can be performed through the Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s online services portal. Note that the contractor will be required to create a user profile before doing this. Queries concerning maintain a license in Florida can be directed to (850) 487-1395.

Note that the Department of Business and Professional Regulations requires all licensees to self-report any convictions or nolo contendere pleadings within 30 days by completing a Criminal Self-Reporting Document and mailing it to:

  • Department of Business and Professional Regulation
  • Division of Regulation
  • 2601 Blair Stone Road
  • Tallahassee, FL 32399-0782

Failure to do this can result in disciplinary actions like fines and license suspension or revocation.

On the other hand, the Florida Bar has a mandatory Continuing Legal Education Requirement for all attorneys that wish to maintain their licenses in the State of Florida. Attorneys are required to complete 33 hours of this education over a three-year period. Five of these hours must be spent in the areas of ethics, professionalism, substance abuse, mental illness awareness, or bias elimination, while three hours must be spent in the area of technology. Attorneys are required to report their CLER credits online through the MyFloridaBar Member Portal. This portal also allows attorneys to perform actions like update their profile information and pay any annual fees.

How to Renew a Contractor License in
Florida

Contractor licenses in the State of Florida expire on August 31st of every odd year for registered contractors and August 31st of every even year for certified contractors. The Department of Business and Professional Regulation typically sends a renewal notice to contractors 90 – 120 days before this date. Contractors are required to complete 14 hours of continuing education requirements and pay any applicable renewal fees before midnight, eastern standard time, on the expiration date of their licenses. Note that any contractor that was issued a license less than 12 months before August 31st of the applicable renewal year is not required to complete any continuing education. Also, contractors that have had their licenses for more than one year but less than two years before August 31st of their renewal years will only be required to complete seven hours of continuing education.

Contractors are advised to renew their licenses online through the Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s online services portal. However, completed renewal forms along with appropriate fees can also be submitted via mail-in to:

  • Department of Business and Professional Regulation
  • 2601 Blair Stone Road
  • Tallahassee, FL 32399-0783

Queries related to contractor license renewal in the State of Florida can be directed to (850) 487-1395.

Likewise, licensed attorneys in the State of Florida are required to pay annual fees that are determined by the Florida Bar. Payment for these fees is typically done online through the MyFloridaBar Member Portal.