In Florida, unlicensed contracting is a crime. Florida Statutes provide special civil remedies for those harmed by unlicensed contracting. For instance, Section 768.0425 provides that a consumer harmed by an unlicensed contractor is entitled to treble damages and attorney’s fees. These are extreme remedies intended to punish unlicensed contractors. We typically think of a homeowner as the “consumer” in this context. However, a general contractor is likewise entitled to the civil remedies of §768.0425 if the contractor is harmed by its unlicensed subcontractor. Home Construction Management, LLC v. Comet, Inc., 125 So.3d 221 (Fla. 4th DCA 2013).
In Home Construction Management, a general contractor sued its subcontractor for disgorgement and treble damages under §768.0425. The general contractor alleged that it was harmed to the extent of overcharges it had paid to subcontractor. Contractor further alleged that subcontractor was unlicensed and its scope of work required a license. The court agreed and held that the subcontractor was guilty of unlicensed contracting and ordered treble damages and attorney’s fees.
General contractors should be aware of this law and be ready to apply it against unlicensed subcontractors to obtain a satisfying award of treble damages and attorney’s fees. Subcontractors, and any unlicensed contractor, should be aware of the punitive damages, as well as criminal penalties that they are subject to for committing unlicensed contracting. It doesn’t pay to commit unlicensed contracting in Florida.