“Owner’s Representatives” May Not Be Required to Have a Contractor’s License, if They Follow the Rules
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In construction projects, the owner sometimes hires a person or entity to act as the owner’s representative to facilitate the project and act as the point of contact in a representative or agency capacity on the owner’s behalf. These owner’s representatives may oversee the design and construction work, and deal directly with the contractors actually performing the work. A recent case examined whether such owner’s representatives are required to have a contractor’s license. Sg 2901, LLC v. Complimenti, Inc., 323 So.3d 804 (Fla. 3d DCA June 30, 2021). Under the specific facts of that case, the unlicensed owner’s representative was not guilty of unlicensed contracting, primarily because the owner’s representative had the owner hire a licensed contractor to perform the construction work in contractual privity with the owner.
In Sg 2091, LLC, the owner hired an unlicensed interior decorator to decorate an apartment. The owner later decided he wanted the decorator to also renovate the apartment. The decorator sagely determined that the renovation work would require licensed professionals, including an architect and construction contractor. The decorator found and presented certain licensed professionals to the owner, and the owner proceeded to contract with the licensed professionals presented by the decorator. Though they contracted directly with the owner, they were told by the owner to deal with the decorator “on all matters moving forward—specifically with respect to payment.”
After the project was complete, the owner failed to pay the decorator for his services performed to oversee the project and direct the licensed professionals. The decorator filed a construction lien, and sued the owner for payment. The owner’s primary defense against the lien and lawsuit was that the decorator was required to be a licensed contractor, the decorator was unlicensed, and, thus, was barred by law from pursuing a lien or payment claim. Ultimately, the trial court rejected this defense and found in favor of the decorator, finding that the decorator, as owner’s representative, did no work that required a license. The owner appealed.
On appeal, the Third District Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s judgment. On the following facts, the decorator was not required to be a licensed contractor and could pursue lien and payment claims against the owner.
- There was a licensed general contractor, who was contracted directly with the owner (and not contracted with the decorator, although he was directed by the decorator).
- The licensed general contractor performed all of the construction work requiring a license.
- The decorator’s scope of work was limited to design/decorating services and acting as the point of contact in a representative or agency capacity on owner’s behalf.
- Any hiring and/or contracting of work done at the property – licensed or not – was done and approved directly by the owner himself and/or the licensed general contractor.
In conclusion, an owner’s representative should be cautious to ensure that all scope of work requiring a license is performed by a licensed contractor who has a contract directly with the owner. Otherwise, the owner’s representative may be guilty of unlicensed contracting, which carries severe penalties.