WARNING: Changes to Licensed Painting Contractors in the State of Florida
A new Florida law, House Bill 735, signed by Governor Ron DeSantis in June 2021, bans Florida municipalities and counties from creating additional licensing requirements for a long list of occupations. The law eliminates nearly all local licenses and expressly reserves contractor licensing to the state. Local licenses are those issued by county governments.
The bill prohibits Florida counties from issuing contractor licenses for trades that are not regulated at the state level. For example, some local governments required a person to obtain a permit for painting, flooring, cabinetry, interior remodeling, driveway or tennis court installation, handyman services, decorative stone, tile, marble, granite, or terrazzo installation, and plastering. However, under the new law, cities cannot create new local occupational licenses for handyman services.
As a consumer, you should be aware of these changes in licensing requirements and ensure the contractor is appropriately licensed with the DBPR for any work you have. Here is what the new law means:
Identified Specialty Contractors Will No Longer be Issued Licenses
The new law reduces government regulation on certain non-structural types of contractors by clarifying that only certain contractors should have licenses. Unfortunately, contractors who offer specialty contract services like those discussed above cannot be issued a permit, even if they want it. However, they can get a journeyman license from the county or municipality if they are in the plumbing, pipe fitting, mechanical, HVAC, electrical, and alarm system trades.
Many Counties Will No Longer Utilize Their Resources to Validate if Companies Are Insured
The new law will take full effect in July 2023, and after this date, many county contractor licenses will no longer be required. As a result of these changes, many counties will no longer utilize their resources to validate if companies are insured. This is a considerable risk to consumers as it puts the onus on them to confirm and require validation from contractors to ensure they are insured.
Familiarizing yourself with these changes helps you take the necessary precautions when hiring contractors.
Licensed Insured Professionals May Be Outbid by Uninsured Businesses Who Have Lower Overhead
The law has created a situation where many insured and licensed professionals will be unbid severely by new businesses or businesses with lower overhead due to insufficient insurance.
The previous law requiring companies to be insured was in place to protect you, but now that this requirement has been eliminated, it may lead to unfair competition and put consumers at risk. As a result, you need to be more vigilant in checking contractors’ credentials and ensuring they are adequately insured before hiring them.
Steps to Protect Yourself and Ensure You Get What You Pay For
Given the many ways the new law puts you, the consumer, there’s only so much you can do to protect yourself. Some of the steps you can take include the following:
Ask for References and Read Reviews
When hiring a contractor, one way to protect yourself is by asking for references and reading reviews.
Talking to references gives you a good idea of the contractor’s character and whether they’re reliable and honest. It’s also a great way to verify that the contractor is as professional and productive as they claim. When asking for references, you should request recent business activity from the contractor candidate, including names and contact information of their most recent clients with dates of service, to prevent them from “cherry picking” only their best customers.
Online reviews, client references, or recommendations can provide insight into the contractor’s quality of work and customer service. When checking reviews, ensure they are recent or at least within the last six months to ensure the information is current. You can also check the complaint databases to see how the contractor responds to consumer complaints.
When gathering this information, be aware of false endorsement guidelines set by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). This prevents you from falling for fake reviews and endorsements. Ding your due diligence helps you make informed decisions when hiring contractors and protect yourself from scams or poor-quality work.
Validate They are Insured Under General Liability and Workers’ Compensation
After the new law changes, you can protect yourself by validating that contractors are insured under general liability and workers’ compensation. The previous law protected consumers by ensuring that companies were insured, but now that this requirement has been eliminated, you have to ensure that contractors are adequately insured before hiring them.
Before hiring, confirm that they have general liability insurance and workers’ compensation. General liability protects against property damage or bodily injury caused by the contractor’s work, while workers’ compensation insurance provides coverage for employees injured on the job. By verifying that contractors have these types of insurance, you can protect yourself from financial liability in case of accidents or injuries on your property.
When validating, ask for a Certificate of Insurance and verify the name of the contractor’s insurance carrier before hiring them. In addition, ensure the contractor complies with workers’ compensation requirements in Florida.
Look for Businesses That Have Been Operating for 5+ Years and With Positive Reviews
House Bill 735 preempts the licensing of occupations to the state and supersedes any local government licensing of disciplines, which may lead to unfair competition and put consumers at risk.
You can ensure that the contractor has a track record of providing quality services by hiring businesses operating for 5+ years. Reading reviews from Yelp, Google, or Angie’s List can also provide valuable insights into the business’s work quality and customer service. Companies that work hard to earn positive reviews are more likely to provide your satisfaction and provide high-quality services.
Try and Do Business with Local Family-Owned Business
The recent changes to Florida law have created a situation where many large franchises will hire uninsured, unskilled local individuals for low prices to complete a project. Unfortunately, this will put you at risk of having a poor-quality job while assuming the company you hired uses its long-term workers.
You can protect yourself by working with local family-owned businesses, as they are more likely to have a personal connection with their customers.
House Bill 735 is a controversial legislation that has sparked debate among lawmakers, industry groups, and consumers. This bill prohibits Florida counties from issuing their contractor licenses for trades that are not regulated at the state level, including painting, flooring, cabinetry, interior remodeling, driveway or tennis court installation, and more.
Passed in 2021, this bill has prevented local governments from issuing licenses to specialty contractors such as painters and landscapers.
While this law has eliminated the patchwork of local occupational licensing requirements in Florida, it has also created a situation where businesses that have lower overhead due to not being adequately insured may offer lower prices and put the responsibility on the consumer to do their homework and ensure that they are properly insured before hiring them. As a result, it has created a division where some believe it will help streamline occupational licensing and reduce unnecessary regulations. In contrast, others worry that it will lead to a lack of oversight and consumer protection.
As a consumer, you must perform due diligence before hiring a contractor to ensure that they are appropriately licensed, insured, and have a good reputation in the industry. This will protect you from unlicensed contractors who perform work without proper training or qualifications, which could result in shoddy workmanship and unsafe conditions.