by Erin Reisinger / Published March 2015
The Unlicensed Activity Program within the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) exists to serve the state of Florida by vigorously examining compliance issues, comprehensively educating consumers about unlicensed activity, and thoroughly investigating complaints against unlicensed individuals. As required by Florida Statute, the DPBR collects five dollars from licensees during the initial licensure and renewal periods to aid in the combat of unlicensed activity.
Unlicensed activity occurs when an individual offers to perform or performs services that require a state license and the individual does not hold the required license. Florida law sets specific requirements for obtaining professional licensure, and the individuals who have met these requirements are held to certain, professional standards.
It’s important for communities and homeowners to know which services impact their neighborhood and require a state-issued license from the DBPR.
Per Florida law, the term “community association management” includes the management of community associations for compensation when the association or associations served contain more than 10 units or have an annual budget or budgets in excess of $100,000. Individuals whose scope of work falls under these parameters must be licensed by the DBPR.
There’s a good chance you’re also going to need work done on the buildings or homes in your neighborhood. The DBPR licenses contractors to perform services that alter the structure of a building as well as affect public safety. Services such as building or replacing roofs, installing or repairing water heaters, and installing or repairing HVAC units require a state professional license. When hiring contractors to perform repairs or maintenance at your facilities, always verify that the contractor has the proper professional license for the job at hand. Also check with the local building department for any local licenses or permits that may be required in your area.
There are several ways to report suspected unlicensed activity to the DBPR. Consumers can call the Unlicensed Activity Hotline at (866) 532-1440, e-mail ULA@myfloridalicense.com, and mail or fax a complaint form to the department. Please visit the Unlicensed Activity page on the DBPR’s website, www.MyFloridaLicense.com, for complaint forms and more information regarding reporting unlicensed activity.
Last year, the DBPR added a “Report Unlicensed Activity” function to the DBPR Mobile app. Floridians can now submit complaints of unlicensed activity with descriptions and pictures directly from their mobile devices to the DBPR headquarters in close to real time. The DPBR Mobile app is free to download in the iTunes and Google Play app stores.
Upon receiving a complaint of suspected, unlicensed activity, the DBPR assigns it to an investigator in one of the department’s regional offices. Once assigned, the investigator sends a letter to the unlicensed individual notifying them that they are being investigated and allotting a timeframe to respond to the allegations. Complainants and witnesses listed in the complaint are also interviewed by the investigator.
Following the interviews, the investigator obtains all pertinent information necessary to prove or disprove the allegations of unlicensed activity. For construction complaints, this may include a contract or proof of payment to the unlicensed individual, and for community association manager cases, the investigator may request association documents, copies of the minutes, or financial records.
Once a report is completed by the investigator, a copy of the case file will be sent to the department’s Office of the General Counsel for review as well as to the State Attorney’s Office for prosecution. The department may levy an administrative fine against the individual if found to be practicing a regulated profession without a license.
The DBPR is primarily a regulatory agency, meaning the department enforces administrative law rather than criminal law. According to the department’s jurisdiction outlined in Florida law, the following actions may be taken against an individual or business engaging in unlicensed activity:
Ultimately, the DBPR’s goal is to bring unlicensed individuals into compliance with the law by obtaining the proper, professional license.
The department does not have the authority to obtain restitution for the complainant if they are the victim of unlicensed activity. In cases of unlicensed activity, however, the department may administer fines on the unlicensed individual and/or help facilitate criminal prosecution through the local State Attorney’s Office. The complainant may request restitution from the courts independently of the DBPR.
The best way to avoid becoming the victim of unlicensed activity is by first knowing which professions require a state license and verifying the license with the DBPR before hiring for services. Consumers can verify licenses on the DBPR website at www.MyFloridaLicense.com or by calling the DBPR Customer Contact Center at (850) 487-1395.
Erin Reisinger is an Unlicensed Activity Investigations Manager with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.