The Florida Contractor Licensing provisions are tricky, and over the last few years, things have not gotten any easier. Before I dive too deep into this topic, full disclosure, I am not an attorney. I am not offering legal advice or making any recommendations for contractors. Just like many of you, I am trying to make sense of an extremely confusing series of legislative provisions. I’m also trying my level best to educate all licensed Florida contractors on the current status of licensing provisions. Keep reading to get caught up on the history of State of Florida House Bill 735 and get my take on the more recent HB 1383.
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Brief History of HB 735
First, let’s start with a little history: In 2021, the Florida legislature passed HB 735, which mandated the preemption of local licenses to the state, prohibiting local municipalities from requiring licenses to perform certain scopes of work. This bill went into effect July 1, 2021 and required local governments to comply starting July 1, 2023.
Among other things, HB 735 stated specifically, “A local government, as defined in s. 163.211, may not require a person to obtain a license for a job scope which does not substantially correspond to the job scope of one of the contractor categories defined in s. 489.105(3)(a)-(o) and (q) or authorized in s. 489.1455(1). For purposes of this section, job scopes for which a local government may not require a license include, but are not limited to, painting; flooring; cabinetry; interior remodeling; driveway or tennis court installation; handyman services; decorative stone, tile, marble, granite, or terrazzo installation; plastering; stuccoing; caulking; and canvas awning and ornamental iron installation.”
Unfortunately, HB 735 did not specifically address local government’s ability to require a permit for work that does not require a license. This oversight, of course, created chaos in the Florida construction industry for those local license holders affected by this rule change. If a painting contractor or a flooring contractor wants to perform work valued at over $2,500, as per the Florida Building Code, a permit could be required. But, if the license category for this type of work no longer exists, the owner of the company now has a problem. How can this company continue to do business if they cannot pull a permit without a contracting license after July 1, 2023?
This was a significant omission in the bill and caused many local license holders to either obtain a Certified Contractors license in a category offered at the state level, or risk going out of business after July 1, 2023, because local municipalities would no longer renew or issue those licenses but would still require permits for that scope of work. In addition, to add another layer of complexity, there are experience requirements for state-level Certified licensure, and many local license holders did not have the proper work history to qualify as a Certified Contractor in the category that would allow them to continue working.
That’s a short history of HB 735.
Enter HB 1383
In the recent legislative session, things started to happen to try and fix some of the issues created by the original bill. Enter HB 1383, which addressed the main issue of permitting requirements, but also added some additional provisions. This new bill, most notably, was passed with no dissenters in both the House (109 to 0) and Senate (38 to 0), which should be a clue as to how pressing this issue was for contractors—and voters—in Florida.
Regarding the permitting issue, HB 1383 states, “489.117, Florida Statutes, is amended to read: 489.117 Registration; specialty contractors. — 64 (4)(a)1. A person whose job scope does not substantially correspond to either the job scope of one of the contractor categories defined in s. 489.105(3)(a)-(o), or the job scope of one of the certified specialty contractor categories established by board rule, is not required to register with the board. A local government, as defined in s. 163.211, may not require a person to obtain a license, issued by the local government or the state, for a job scope which does not substantially correspond to the job scope of one of the contractor categories defined in s. 489.105(3)(a)-(o) and (q) or authorized in s. 489.1455(1), or the job scope of one of the certified specialty contractor categories established pursuant to s. 489.113(6). A local government may not require a state or local license to obtain a permit for such job scopes. For purposes of this section, job scopes for which a local government may not require a license include, but are not limited to, painting; flooring; cabinetry; interior remodeling when the scope of the project does not include a task for which a state license is required; driveway or tennis court installation; handyman services; decorative stone, tile, marble, granite, or terrazzo installation; plastering; pressure washing; stuccoing; caulking; and canvas awning and ornamental iron installation.”
There was specific language added for fencing, siding and roof coating and roof cleaning contractors: “A local government may continue to offer a license for veneer, including aluminum or vinyl gutters, siding, soffit, or fascia; rooftop painting, coating, and cleaning above three stories in height; or fence installation and erection if the local government imposed such a licensing requirement before January 1, 2021.” Now these contractors will be able to maintain their local licenses so long as the municipality offered that licensing category before July 1, 2021.
In addition to clarifying the permitting requirement and licensing categories affected, the bill also extended the effective date of the preemption provision for one full year, now effective July 1, 2024. The bill reads, “(2) PREEMPTION OF OCCUPATIONAL LICENSING TO THE STATE. —The licensing of occupations is expressly preempted to the state, and this section supersedes any local government licensing requirement of occupations with the exception of the following: (a) Any local government that imposed licenses on occupations before January 1, 2021. However, any such local government licensing of occupations expires on July 1, 2024.”
How Will HB 1383 Affect Contractor CE Requirements?
Like anything in life and legislature, there is the law of unintended consequences. For every new provision, there are always open questions. Personally, I wonder about the Continuing Education (CE) requirements for local license holders who thought their licenses were going away July 1, 2023.
Local Specialty and Registered licensed holders renew their licenses in odd years (this year – 2023) and each county has different requirements in terms of hours and types of education needed. Many of these contractors have no idea this new law has extended the preemption deadline, so they have not completed their CE requirements and have not applied to renew their licenses. If you are one of these contractors, I encourage you to reach out to the local municipality and ask how they plan to proceed. Also, the renewal would only be for one year, not two years since the law now becomes effective July 1, 2024. This is an issue on which the local governments will have to provide guidance for their local license holders.
If you need to complete your CE requirements, Gold Coast School of Construction is here to help. You can find classroom and online Florida Contractor Continuing Education Classes on our website.
What About the New Specialty Categories?
Yet another plot twist in the drama and entertainment that is the Florida legislative session: The bill requires the Construction Industry Licensing Board (CILB) to create new Specialty categories at the state level for Registered contractors. The bill reads, “(b) By July 1, 2024, the board shall, by rule, establish certified specialty contractor categories for voluntary licensure for all of the following:
- Structural aluminum or screen enclosures.
- Marine seawall work.
- Marine bulkhead work.
- Marine dock work.
- Marine pile driving.
- Structural masonry.
- Structural prestressed, precast concrete work.
- Rooftop solar heating installation.
- Structural steel.
- Window and door installation, including garage door installation and hurricane or windstorm protection.
- Plaster and lath.
- Structural carpentry.”
The addition of these Certified Specialty categories is going to keep the CILB very busy over the next year or so. The amount of administrative procedure and board rule development is almost inconceivable. Will the CILB have these new rules ready by the new deadline? Only time will tell. Will the local governments make new rules regarding renewal or CE requirements for these categories that were supposed to go away in July 2023? Again, only time will tell.
Here are the biggest takeaways from HB 1383:
- The preemption deadline was extended to July 1, 2024 – local licenses that were going to be eliminated in July of this year will not be eliminated until July of 2024.
- Additional language was added to allow the local licensure of fencing, siding, gutter, and roof coating and cleaning contractors.
- New specialty categories will be created by the CILB that will allow a host of local license holders to obtain their state-level Certification or Registration.
- The CE requirements for those local license holders that were to be preempted in July 2023 were not addressed in the bill. Contact your local municipality to find out if you must complete CE for 2023 to renew your local license.
As I mentioned at the very beginning of this article, I am not a lawyer, and I find this whole thing as confusing as you probably do. We are all in this together, so if you have insight into this process, or if I am wrong about any aspect of these new provisions, or if you are a Building Official or Administrator who has a plan for the preemption extension, or if you are a Florida Contractor and just don’t know what to do, please reach out to me at Contractor@GoldCoastSchools.com.
If you know how your local government will address the renewal and/or CE requirements for local licensure, please share so I can keep track of how each county is handling this issue. The more we discuss the process and share what municipalities are doing for local contractor licensing, the better prepared we can be for what’s to come on July 1, 2024.
I anticipate writing several more articles on this issue, so stay tuned and follow Gold Coast School of Construction on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for the latest updates on Florida Contractor licensing.
Written by Chris Clausing. Chris Clausing is the Program Director for Gold Coast School of Construction and Curriculum and Program Innovation for Colibri Group’s Construction Education Ecosystem. Chris is a Certified General Contractor (CGC1515171) in the State of Florida with over 20 years of experience in the Construction and Inspection industries. Chris also sits as a Consensus Committee Member for the IECC helping shape the energy codes of the future as well as a LEED GA. If you have any questions, please reach out to Chris directly at Contractor@GoldCoastSchools.com.