A Florida Overview on Handyman Liability
We all have hired a handyman to do work around our home in the past. But, hiring a handyman may end up being anything but “handy,” for you and the handyman alike.
If you are planning on having some work done, whether minor or major, I would strongly recommend looking into whether there are license or permit requirements for the type of work contemplated. If there is a license requirement, a general handyman would not be permitted to perform that task. For more information, you can visit the Florida Department of Business Professional Regulation at http://www.myfloridalicense.com/dbpr/pro/division/Servicesthatrequirealicense_Construction.html .
If you hire an unlicensed contractor in Florida, the Department of Professional Regulations may issue a cease and desist order. Also, you may have an injunction filed against you which could require your appearance in court and the payment of court costs. Further, a penalty of up to $5,000 for aiding and assisting unlicensed activity is also an available remedy.
In addition, hiring an unlicensed individual exposes you to liability. Where a licensed contractor would be bonded and insured, a handyman, on the other hand, will not likely have insurance coverage, and if they do, it would not cover illegal, unlicensed work. So, the next time you think about hiring a handyman, do your homework and make sure that it is the type of work permitted under Florida law without a license.
In Florida, performing contract work without a license is unlawful. Florida law provides that people holding themselves out as contractors, or offering to contract, without a license are guilty of a first-degree misdemeanor in Florida. If there is a prior conviction, the violator may be found guilty of a felony of the third degree. Even without a prior conviction, if the first offense occurred during the existence of a state of emergency declared by the governor, the violator may be guilty of a felony of the third degree.
Further, where a contractor or subcontractor has no license and enters into a contract, the contract is void (for illegality). Contracts entered into (after October 1, 1990) by an unlicensed contractor are unenforceable by the unlicensed contractor. Public policy prohibits individuals from enforcing a contract that is illegal.
So, if the agreement itself is unenforceable, it follows that any liens filed (for services, labor, or materials) by an unlicensed contractor are also unenforceable.
One last point, if a consumer sues an unlicensed contractor for injuries sustained from the unlicensed contractor’s negligence, the consumer is entitled to treble damages (three times actual damages), plus court costs and reasonable attorney’s fees from the unlicensed contractor.
So, you do the math… I’m in no way suggesting that a handyman cannot do a great job at what they do; I’ve seen it firsthand. Both the good and the bad. But at the end of the day, you as the homeowner need to weigh the risk and reward. There could be steep consequences for you and everyone else involved.
This is a generalized discussion and is not intended for any particular set of facts and should not be relied upon as such. By no means does this blog create an attorney-client relationship or attorney-client privilege between the attorney and the readers. The law frequently changes as new cases are decided and published regularly. Anything relied upon in this or any blog, is done so at the readers own risk.
VERNON W. GUIRGUIS, ESQ.
The Guirguis Law Firm, PLLC
1423 S.E. 16th Place, STE 204
Cape Coral, Florida 33990
Posted on December 5, 2012, in Legal and tagged Attorney, Contractor, Felony, First-Degree Misdemeanor, Florida Department of Business Professional Regulation, Fort Myers, Handyman, Insurance, Law, Lawyer, Legal Schmegal, Liability, Negligence, Property Guiding, SWFL Real Estate, The Guirguis Law Firm, Unlicensed Contractor, Vernon Guirguis. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.