Can an Unlicensed Contractor Sue in Florida?
The quickest way to answer this question is to say that unlicensed contracting is a crime. A penalty for one’s first guilty conviction for unlicensed contracting is a first-degree misdemeanor. A second conviction is a third-degree felony. (Fla. Stat § 489.127(1)-(2)). The Florida Legislature, as affirmed by the Florida Supreme Court, provided Florida Statutes Section 489.128, to caution unlicensed contractors, and to warn consumers of the danger of hiring an unlicensed contractor to do work requiring a license. F.S. 489.128 provides that an “unlicensed contractor had no enforceable contract or lien rights with regard to the contract.” Earth Trades, Inc. v. T & G Corp., 108 So. 3d 580, 586 (Fla. 2013). Back to the question, can an unlicensed contractor sue in Florida?
The Florida Supreme Court answers this question succinctly; the purported contractor, if proven to be unlicensed, CANNOT recover on a contract with an unsuspecting homeowner. The Fla. Sup. Ct. further declares that (paraphrased) it is well-settled Florida Statutory law that as a matter of public policy, contracts entered into and performed in full or in part by any contractor who fails to obtain or maintain a license in accordance with State law and standards (provided in part by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation) shall be unenforceable in law or in equity. Id. If you would like to search for a contractor’s license and qualifications, you may do so on the Department of Business and Professional Regulations website for confirmation and to allay your suspicions. Contact the Jacobs Law Firm, PLLC construction attorney Lake County Florida for more information about your legal predicament.
Construction Attorney Lake County Florida
In an early foundational case, Inter-Continental Promotions, Inc. v. Miami Beach First Nat’l Bank, the Court answered the question, can an unlicensed contractor sue in Florida. The Court decided, “We cannot allow one to invoke the judicial process when, for his own financial benefit, he has participated in the very activity the law precludes, with the resulting danger that the law seeks to avoid.” 441 F.2d 1356, 1361 (5th Cir.1971). More simply stated, no, they cannot. This does not mean that the legal fight is automatically over. The defendant (homeowner) must prove that the contractor is unlicensed and has no right to sue. The defendant must also show the court that the type of work being completed in fact requires a contractor’s license.
An unlicensed contractor who performs work that requires a license is actually taking a huge risk. The unlicensed contractor could conceivably perform the job above industry standard and not get paid. If the unlicensed contractor sues the homeowner for breach of contract, he or she could lose because of their failure to be licensed at the time of their performance.
As a construction attorney Lake County Florida, I would like to introduce you to Florida Statute 489.127(1(a),(f)) which states unequivocally that:
No person shall: |(a) Falsely hold himself or herself or a business organization out as a licensee, certificate-holder, or registrant;…[or] (f)Engage in the business or act in the capacity of a contractor or advertise himself or herself or a business organization as available to engage in the business or act in the capacity of a contractor without being duly registered or certified.
Nevertheless, the fact remains that if you are being sued, you must prove the contractor deceived you, misrepresented himself, or otherwise. The court does not assume that the contractor is unlicensed or that the type of work performed requires any licensing at all. If you would like to read additional Florida Law blogs about civil litigation, or would like a free consultation, contact us today!