Contractors and subcontractors should only accept work they are licensed to perform – if the work they perform requires licensure, of course. That sentiment can be found all over the FAQs of our state by state resources, but beyond that – it’s just good practice. What’s more, work performed without licensure (again – where licensure is required) is not lienable in many states. Unlicensed Florida contractors take note- one of those States is Florida.
Unlicensed Florida Contractors And Subs Can’t File Valid Liens If Licensure’s Required
Parties who are required to send an NTO but fail to do so will also miss out on Florida lien rights. Learn more here: Florida Notice To Owner – Ain’t No Sunshine If Its Not Sent.
Unlicensed Florida contractors (and subcontractors) cannot file a valid lien if licensure is required for their work. For laborers or materialmen – there is generally no requirement for licensure. Further, if a properly licensed lienor contracts with an unlicensed lienor, the rights of the properly licensed lienor are unaffected.
This all arises from § 713.02(7) of the Florida mechanics lien statute. It reads, in part, as follows:
(7) Notwithstanding any other provision of this part, no lien shall exist in favor of any contractor, subcontractor, or sub-subcontractor who is unlicensed as provided in s. 489.128 or s. 489.532.
That’s The Least of Their Worries
Whether or not they can file a lien should be the least of a Florida contractor or sub’s worries. 489.128 of Florida’s Regulation of Professions and Occupations code states that, as a matter of public policy, contracts entered into by an unlicensed contractor shall be unenforceable by the unlicensed contractor.
Further, criminal penalties are also in play. The first time an unlicensed contractor or sub commits a violation, it’s a misdemeanor. Penalties include up to a year in jail (or probation) and a $1,000 fine. The second time? It’s a third degree felony. That can come with 5 years in prison (or probation) and a fine of $5,000. The state of Florida is serious when it comes to unlicensed contracting.
Law Enforcement Stings on Unlicensed Contractors
Many unlicensed contractors or subs think that the risks are low for getting caught, but that may not be the case. Take this recent story from the Tampa Bay Times: Sheriff’s undercover sting nabs 26 ‘brazen’ unlicensed contractors.
Here’s the gist of the story:
The Pinella County Construction Licensing Board is a mess, so the County Sheriff’s Office started a “Construction Licensing Investigative Unit.” A little over a week ago, a three day sting nabbed 26 unlicensed contractors. Apparently, it only took hours to lure them to a vacant home where the sting was organized. According to the Sheriff, “It was like shooting fish in a barrel.” According to the Tampa Bay Times, while all 26 arrested face a misdemeanor, and some were repeat offenders and face felony charges. However, even more penalties are in play – 20 of those arrested also face felonies for worker’s compensation fraud.
The goal of such strict licensure laws is to protect consumers from contractors and subs who perform subpar work and from those who prey on property owners, leaving unfinished job sites with cash in-hand. However, many argue that licensing requirements are overly burdensome and stifle the market for contractors. Regardless, one thing is clear – Florida does not mess around when it comes to unlicensed contracting. To preserve lien rights, and simply to stay out of trouble, Florida contractors and subcontractors must be sure to obtain licensure where it is required.