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If a contractor’s license lapses and no contracting work is being performed by the unlicensed contractor, there’s no problem. However, if a person chooses to act in the capacity of a contractor without being licensed to do so, the penalties may be severe. Those penalties are covered in Florida Statute 489.127.
Acting as a contractor without a license is a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by a term of imprisonment up to one year, or 12 months of probation and a fine of up to $1,000. If an unlicensed person is convicted of that misdemeanor and he or she continues to act as a contractor in a construction project, it’s a third-degree felony, punishable by a term of imprisonment of up to five years and a fine of up to $5,000.
If probable cause indicates that unlicensed contracting work is taking place on a construction project which requires a current, valid certification or registration, a stop-work order may be issued by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) requiring the project to immediately cease. In addition, an administrative penalty of up to $5,000 per incident could be imposed, along with civil penalties of anywhere from $500 to $5,000.
State penalties are not the only penalties that may be assessed. Each county or city also could issue citations against unlicensed contractors and impose penalties of up to $2,000. These penalties can add up, considering that Florida statutes provide that each day a willful, knowing violation continues, a separate offense occurs.
Other consequences of contracting without a license may include:
The criminal and civil penalties for contracting without a license are severe, but it is important to remember that license requirements are in place to protect the contractor as well as the contractor’s customers. A person who has not obtained the required license for his or her profession may not have the requisite education or skill set to safely complete the tasks associated with their profession. Licensing statutes and ordinances make it more likely that aspiring contractors will obtain the education and skills needed to be safe on the job site.
Another consequence of unlicensed contracting is that – although a person may have the skill set to complete a certain contracting project without a license – he or she could be exploited by those who are well aware that an unlicensed contractor will not have any legal way to enforce payment for work performed. Some unlicensed workers toil on projects after normal work hours and on weekends for promises of payment that ultimately do not materialize.
License requirements are designed to protect individuals, and the Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood communities as a whole. If you’re cited for contracting without a license, seek immediate representation from a qualified construction attorney. There are defenses and mitigating factors which may assist the you in resolving the matter.