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What is the difference between a handyman and a contractor?

On Behalf of | Nov 21, 2022 | Construction Law, Contract Law

For those looking to have a project done in their home or business, you may notice that the people willing to do your work call themselves different names, like handyman or contractor. But, what is the difference?

In a word, a license

Because of the amount of ongoing construction and remodeling, Florida licenses their contractors. Most of these licensure requirements are in Florida Statutes, Chapter 489. However, not all “contractors” are licensed contractors. Per state law, a handyman need only be licensed if they undertake or are responsible for a construction project or construction work for money.

What kind of work qualifies?

Most, but not all, construction work is covered by Florida law, and those that do this work require some kind of license. If the work is to construct, repair, remodel, alter, add to or subtract from, demolish or improve a building or structure, it likely qualifies. However, small jobs, like minor carpentry, painting, etc., likely do not qualify as work needing a license to perform.

No license or improper license

Contractors must be properly licensed for the work they perform. If the contractor fails in their licensure duty, any contract they enter into is unenforceable because it is illegal. This means that unlicensed contractors could lose out on compensation, even if they completed the work. And, since they also lose their ability to file a lien or against a bond, their recourse for unpaid work is severely limited. For customers who are injured by the contractor, or who are victims of poor workmanship, they may be entitled to triple damages based on that unlicensed work.

Criminal penalties

If these civil penalties were not reason enough to get properly licensed, state law also criminalizes unlicensed contractors. There could be a fine of up to $10,000, plus the reasonable costs of all investigation and prosecution costs. Indeed, just advertising your unlicensed work could lead to a first-degree misdemeanor. Though, depending on the nature and time of the office, it could also become a third-degree felony.

The takeaway

For Fort Lauderdale, Florida, make sure you have the appropriate licenses for the work you advertise and perform. For customers, check your contractor’s license because this may give you options, should they fail to live up to their end of the bargain.