Florida Contractor License

Written by: Nik Ventouris

Florida Contractor License

If you’re thinking of becoming a licensed contractor in Florida, it’s important to know that Florida’s licensing system can seem complicated due to the different paths available for obtaining a license.

In our Florida Contractor License guide, we will give you a clear overview of what to expect and how navigating through Florida’s unique licensing pathways can influence your journey to becoming a licensed contractor.

Tip: If you’re planning to work as a general contractor in Florida, we recommend forming an LLC. This is an affordable business structure that protects your personal assets against debt and/or lawsuits.

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Do You Need a Contractor License

In Florida, anyone looking to legally operate within the construction industry will be required to obtain a contractor license.

This requirement is universal across the state, but whether you will need to pursue certification or registration will ultimately depend on your intended scope of work and geographic focus.

This is because Florida requires contractors who plan to work across multiple jurisdictions within the state to be certified with the Construction Industry Licensing Board (CILB).

On the other hand, if you intend to focus your construction business within specific cities or counties, you will need to obtain a registered license with the local jurisdiction instead.

Regardless of whether you pursue certification for statewide projects or registration for local ones, if you operate in any of the sectors listed below, you will be required to obtain a state license in one form or another.

Air Conditioning

Air conditioning contractors specialize in the installation, maintenance, and repair of cooling systems. This category may also cover heating systems depending on the specific services offered.

Building

Building contractors are involved in constructing, remodeling, and repairing structures that require a combination of trades, such as residential homes and commercial buildings.

General Contractors

General contractors oversee the entire construction process of a project, coordinating with subcontractors in various trades to ensure the completion of the project from start to finish.

Glass & Glazing

Contractors in this category specialize in the installation of glass in windows, doors, and other fixtures in both residential and commercial buildings.

Mechanical

Mechanical contractors focus on the installation, maintenance, and repair of mechanical systems, including heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC), and refrigeration equipment.

Plumbing

Plumbing contractors are responsible for installing, maintaining, and repairing the piping systems that carry water, waste, gasses, or other fluids in residential and commercial properties.

Pollutant Storage System

This specialty involves the installation, repair, and maintenance of tanks and systems designed to store hazardous pollutants, ensuring they meet environmental safety standards.

Pool/Spa

Contractors in this category specialize in the design, construction, and maintenance of swimming pools, spas, and related recreational facilities.

Residential

Residential contractors focus specifically on construction and remodeling projects within residential homes, including new home construction and renovations.

Roofing

Roofing contractors are experts in installing, repairing, and replacing the roofs of buildings to ensure they are waterproof and weather-resistant.

Sheet Metal

These contractors work with sheet metal materials to construct and repair components like ducts, vents, and siding, often for HVAC systems or building exteriors.

Solar

Solar contractors specialize in the installation and maintenance of solar energy systems designed to capture and utilize solar power for residential or commercial use.

Specialty

Specialty contractors focus on specific areas not covered by the other categories, requiring unique skills or certifications for services like landscaping, electrical work, or concrete construction.

Underground Utility and Excavation

This category includes contractors who install, maintain, and repair underground utilities, as well as those who specialize in excavation work needed for foundation laying and other underground projects.

It’s important to understand that practicing without the appropriate license can lead to serious penalties under Florida law.

Having said that, there’s an important exception to be aware of, known as the Handyman Exemption.

The Handyman Exemption

Florida’s legal framework includes provisions for certain types of work to be exempt from the licensing requirements that apply to contractors.

This is often referred to as the “handyman exemption,” and is outlined in Section 489.103 of the Florida Statutes, and further detailed in section 61G4-12.011(2) of the Florida Administrative Code.

Under the handyman exemption, tasks that are casual, minor, or inconsequential, with an aggregate contract price for labor, materials, and all other items less than $1,000, do not require a contractor’s license.

Having said that, there are significant limitations to this exemption:

  • The exemption does not apply if the work is part of a larger project or if it’s split into smaller contracts under $1,000 to evade licensing requirements
  • Individuals advertising themselves as contractors or implying that they are qualified to engage in contracting cannot claim this exemption
  • Activities that affect a structure’s integrity, involve hazardous materials, impact access or egress, accommodations for the physically disabled, require a building permit, or involve life-safety matters as defined by building codes, are not considered minor or inconsequential and do not fall under this exemption

Recommended

Interested in getting started? We recommend using online study materials and prep courses to give yourself the best chance of success.

How to Get a Contractor License in Florida

In order to become a contractor in Florida, there are certain steps your business will need to follow.

While the specifics of these steps vary between each category, you will generally need to complete the following six steps.

Step 1: Choose Your Business Structure

Before starting the process of becoming a licensed contractor, you’ll first need to decide on the structure of your business.

Since this decision will impact your liability, tax obligations, and how you run your business, you must be informed about the details of each structure so that you can effectively determine which one is best suited to your needs.

Many contracting businesses in Florida, particularly smaller ones, decide to structure themselves as an LLC because it grants them tax flexibility, limited liability protection, and credibility in the eyes of their clients.

Recommended: More than 72% of our readers form their LLC using a professional filing service. Our recommended service provider is:

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Step 2: Meet the Basic Requirements

After forming your business, you’ll need to confirm that you meet the minimum basic requirements. While the specifics of these requirements will vary depending on the license you are trying to obtain, you’ll generally need to:

  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Be a US citizen or legally reside in the country
  • Have no convictions of a disqualifying offense
  • Demonstrate a certain number of hours of on-the-job training and experience. For example, general contractors must either demonstrate four years of relevant experience or present a combination of college education and practical experience that together totals four years

Step 3: Submit an Application

Once you’ve confirmed that you meet the basic requirements of the license your business needs, the next step is to complete and submit the appropriate application form to the relevant regulatory body along with any associated fees.

To do this, you will need to visit the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s website. Once there, you’ll be able to choose between a certified license or a registered license.

After making your choice, you will need to select the “Apply Using a Printable Application” option in order to download and submit the necessary forms.

Step 4: Pass a Licensing Exam

While not a universal requirement, many contractor licenses in Florida require applicants to pass a licensing exam in order to qualify. For example, general contractors must take an exam administered by Pearson VUE called the General Contractors Contract Administration.

Many candidates struggle with these exams as they will often test both their knowledge of the trade and their understanding of Florida specific regulations and laws. To avoid this, many applicants take advantage of online study guides and preparatory courses in order to get ready for these exams.

Interested in getting started? Kick-start the preparation for your contractor licensing exam today with comprehensive study courses and learning materials.

Step 5: Satisfy Insurance Requirements

In order to protect both your business and the client in case of accidents and damages, most contractors in Florida will need to provide proof of insurance coverage in order to get licensed. 

Specifically, applicants are required to attest that they have obtained public liability and property damage insurance in the amounts determined by Board rules.

Additionally, applicants are required to either obtain workers’ compensation insurance or secure an exemption from workers’ compensation insurance within 30 days of the issuance of their license.

Be sure to check the specific insurance prerequisites for the license you’re seeking as well as the surety bond requirements of your local municipality, as these requirements will be unique to each trade and city in Florida.

Step 6: Keep Your Contractor License Valid

Once you obtain your license, it’s essential to keep it active. This often involves renewing it every two years, paying associated renewal fees, and meeting continuing education requirements.

Congratulations! You’ve now successfully obtained the professional license needed to work as a contractor in Florida. However, your licensing journey doesn’t end here, as there are additional licensing requirements your business will need to satisfy in order to operate legally.

Other Licenses You May Need

Below, we’ve explored the various additional licenses and permits that your Florida contractor business may need in more detail.

State Business Licenses

While general contractor licenses aren’t required at a state level in Florida, there are certain state business licenses you may need to obtain before you can get up and running.

For example, since the building materials and services a general contractor provides to clients as part of a construction project are generally taxable, you’ll likely require a sales tax permit.

Additionally, your general contractor business may require an environmental permit from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) if it takes on certain types of projects with the potential to impact the environment.

City and Municipal Licenses

Many local municipalities often impose their own additional requirements that you may have to satisfy for your business to operate legally in that area.

For example, in the City of Tampa, contractors are required to submit a Contractor’s Letter of Authorization in order to perform construction, repair, or renovation work within city limits.

Even though this doesn’t come with a fee, you should note that failing to submit the necessary paperwork before starting work can result in being hit with a fine.

Note: To ensure you’re fully compliant with local regulations and have all the necessary permits, we recommend visiting the Florida League of Cities website.

Florida Contractor License FAQ

How do I get a Florida contractors license?

To obtain a Florida contractor license, you will need to submit an application via the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s website and pass the required licensing exam. Interested in finding out more about the process and requirements for submitting your Florida contractor license application? Check out our How to Get a General Contractor License article.

How hard is the Florida general contractor test?

The Florida general contractor exam is used for those seeking either a registered or certified general contractor license, and can be quite challenging. This is because it assesses trade knowledge and comprehension of Florida-specific law. To make the process more manageable, some candidates choose to use online materials and prep courses when starting out.

Can a non-resident get a contractor’s license in Florida?

Yes, a non-resident can obtain a certified Florida contractor license as long as they satisfy all prerequisites. Regardless of your residency, the following Florida contractor license requirements must be met: must be at least 18 years old, must be a US citizen or a legal resident of the US, and must have no convictions of a disqualifying offense. Non-residents must also satisfy the same application, examination, and insurance requirements as residents.

What is the new law for contractors’ licenses in Florida?

The new law, (i.e., House Bill 1383 (2023)) has significantly altered Florida’s contractor licensing process, particularly affecting those seeking a residential contractor license or a registered general contractor license. This legislation has phased out local contractor licenses for most construction activities, meaning that since July 2023, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) now oversees nearly all contractor licensing.