New Licensing Requirements That Construction Contractors Need to Know About (The Occupational Freedom and Opportunity Act)
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On July 1, 2020, the Occupational Freedom and Opportunity Act (the “Act”) became law, which eliminated some barriers for construction contractors to become licensed in Florida.
Particularly, the Act: (1) clarified that a passing result on a licensing examination does not expire; (2) eliminated the requirement for some applicants to take and pass all parts of the certification examination; (3) expanded the qualifications for an out-of-state licensed contractor to obtain a license in Florida; (4) eliminated the requirement to have a contractor’s license to perform construction work under $2,500; and (5) removed the risk of having a license revoked or suspended for defaulting on a student loan.
Background of Construction Contractor Licensing Requirements
Construction contractors are regulated by Chapter 489 of the Florida Statutes, which provides that a contractor must be licensed to perform certain construction work in Florida. In order to carry out the regulation and licensing of construction contractors, the Florida legislature created the Construction Industry Licensing Board (“CILB”).
To become a licensed construction contractor in Florida, Section 489.111 of the Florida Statutes provides that the applicant must:
- Be 18 years of age;
- Be of good moral character;
- Pass the CILB certification examination; and
- Meet the combination of education and experience as required by the statute and approved by the CLIB.
The CILB certification examination for construction contractors consists of a business and finance portion, and one or two portions specific to the license type the applicant is seeking. Ch. 61G4-16, F.A.C.
License by Examination
Prior to the Act, a passing result on a CILB certification examination was only valid for four years. If applicants wished to upgrade or apply for a different license type, after four years of passing the certification examination, applicants were required to retake the examination.
The Act amended several provisions of Section 489.111 of the Florida Statutes, which clarifies that a passing result on a certification examination does not expire and may be used at any time to qualify for another license type.
The Act also provides that applicants who have received a four-year bachelor degree in building construction, or a related degree approved by the CILB, and received a GPA of 3.0 or higher, are now only required to take and pass the business and finance portion of the certification examination. § 489.113, Fla. Stat.
License by Endorsement
The Act also expanded the qualifications for out-of-state licensed applicants to obtain a license by endorsement in Florida. Before the Act, applicants could apply for a license by endorsement in Florida, if that person held a valid license to practice construction contracting in another state or territory of the United States, and:
- Criteria for issuance of such license was substantially equivalent to Florida’s current certification criteria; or
- Licensing state entered into a reciprocal agreement with the CILB for the recognition of contractor licenses issued in that state, based on criteria for the issuance of such licenses that are substantially equivalent to the criteria for certification in Florida.
Now, out-of-state contractors may also obtain a license by endorsement if he/she held a valid license to practice the same type of construction contracting in another state or territory of the United States for at least ten years. The application must be made when the license in another state is active, or within two years after the license was last active. When reviewing the application, the CILB may consider whether the applicant’s technical competence meets Florida’s codes and standards for wind mitigation and water intrusion, and may consider the applicant’s prior licensure disciplinary history. In addition, if the applicant is a general contractor, building contractor, residential contractor, or roofing contractor, that person must complete a two-hour course on the Florida Building Code. § 489.115(3)(d), Fla. Stat.
Prior to the Act, an unlicensed contractor was able to perform work that falls under the scope of contracting if it was casual, minor, or inconsequential in nature, and the aggregate contract price for all labor and materials was less than $1,000, subject to certain requirements. The Act increased the aggregate contract amount from $1,000 to $2,500. § 489.103(9), Fla. Stat.
Student Loan Default
The Act also provides that no department or board, including the CILB, may suspend or revoke a license based solely on a student loan default. § 455.2278(2), Fla. Stat.
In summary, the Act has removed barriers to become a licensed construction contractor in Florida. Notably, construction contractors who are licensed in another state for at least ten years will now be able to obtain a license by endorsement in Florida. In addition, unlicensed contractors can now perform construction work that has an aggregate contract price of under $2,500.
- James O. “Joby” Birr, Esquire
- Melissa Murrin, JD Candidate