Hurricane Ian created billions of dollars of damages to homes, buildings and a variety of structures throughout Florida. As the construction industry mobilizes to assist with cleanup and restoration, it is important for out-of-state contractors to understand the complexity and enforcement of Florida’s construction licensing laws.

Florida’s construction licensing is governed by Chapters 455 and 489 of Florida Statutes. It provides that anyone engaged in construction must have the appropriate license. The definition of “contractor” under Section 489.105 of Florida Statutes requires that “any person who seeks to construct, repair, alter, remodel, add to, demolish, subtract from or improve any building or structure” must have a license.

In Florida, licensure is divided into two divisions: Division I consists of residential, building and general contractors who have the ability to work on structures subject to their intended use and height requirements. They have the ability to perform all work that is not under Division II or subcontract that work to the appropriate contractor that is licensed in that specialty. Examples of Division II contractors include roofing, HVAC, mechanical, solar and similar trades. Electrical contractors are governed by a separate section of Chapter 489 but have similar requirements.

In the state of Florida, a Division I contractor normally has to subcontract the specialty work contained in Division II. Recently, an emergency order was issued by Florida's Department of Business and Professional Regulation which allows Division I contractors to now self-perform Division II work during the cleanup.

Since Hurricane Ian, I have received dozens of calls from out-of-state contractors looking to come into Florida to do work. The first thing an out-of-state contractor should know is that the same rules apply to out-of-state contractors and there is not a “hurricane exception.” In fact, if you are an unlicensed contractor performing work during a state of emergency, such as post-Hurricane Ian cleanup, it is a third-degree felony. See Section 489.127(2)(c). Unlicensed contractors should also know that the licensing requirement is actively enforced and often checked before you enter storm-damaged zones.

How can you do work as an out-of-state contractor? If you are unlicensed but doing non-specialty work like demolition, drywall, carpentry or masonry, you can work under the supervision of a licensed Florida contractor. You will need a subcontract agreement and you will also want to verify that you have commercial general liability and workers’ compensation insurance (Florida-endorsed) that is legally sufficient to work in Florida – check with your insurance agent ahead of time.

If you are doing Division II work, you will need to either be licensed or be working as a W2 employee of a licensed Division II contractor. For example, an out-of-state mechanical contractor could work for a Florida-licensed mechanical contractor by having its employees be placed on payroll, properly insured and paid as employees under the licensed mechanical contractor.

If you have any questions or need clarification, provides detailed guidance on licensing do’s and don’ts. Florida does enforce its rules, and in addition to state licensing being actively reviewed, you should anticipate increased OSHA inspections from the Florida regional offices.

The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.