The Legislature deems it necessary in the interest of the public health, safety, and welfare to regulate the construction industry in Florida. As a result, the Florida Legislature enacted Chapter 489, Florida Statutes. The general policy in Florida is that construction work needs to be performed by an appropriate licensed contractor unless exempt from licensure under 489.103, Florida Statutes. For example, no construction license is required for Federal or municipal work, public utilities, roads, bridges, minor or inconsequential work (“handyman”) and small repairs effectuated by a real estate professional.

Earlier this year, Governor Rick Scott signed House Bill 535, which includes important updates to Chapter 489 and added section 489.103(23), Florida Statutes, regarding certain exemptions to construction licensure in Florida. As of July 1, 2016, an employee of an apartment community, or an apartment community management company, can make minor repairs to existing electric water heaters or to existing electric heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning systems if they follow certain conditions. Note that the section does not allow for these persons to make major repair or replacement of these systems—or to install new ones—and there are also conditions imposed upon the employee making the minor repairs. These conditions include that the employee:

  1. Does not hold himself or herself or his or her employer out to be licensed or qualified by a licensee.
  2. Does not perform any acts, other than acts authorized by this statutory exemption which constitute contracting.
  3. Receives compensation from and is under the supervision and control of an employer who deducts the FICA and withholding tax and who provides workers’ compensation, as prescribed by law (i.e. must be an employee of the apartment complex and not a third party maintenance company).
  4. Holds a current certificate for apartment maintenance technicians issued by the National Apartment Association and accredited by the American National Standards Institute.

Additionally, the exemption for minor apartment electrical water heating, ventilation and air-conditioning repairs is subject to other conditions regarding education and experience. The person seeking to effectuate the minor repairs to apartment complexes under the construction licensure exemption must demonstrate that they have: (1) one year of apartment or rental housing maintenance experience, (2) successful completion of at least 90 hours of courses or online content that covers electrical maintenance and repair; plumbing maintenance and repair; heating, ventilating, or air-conditioning system maintenance and repair; appliance maintenance and repair; and interior and exterior maintenance and repair, and (3) completion of any and all examination requirements.

Furthermore, the electrical water heating, ventilation and air-conditioning must already be installed on the property owned by the apartment community or managed by the apartment community management company. The equipment cannot be modified except to replace components necessary to return the equipment to its original condition. Lastly, the equipment can only be repaired with new parts that are functionally identical to the parts being replaced. If the water heating, ventilation and air-conditioning equipment is powered by gas or solar, then an appropriate licensed contractor should make the repairs.

The construction licensure exemption sets a monetary limitation on the scope of the repairs as well. The exception is limited to an individual repair, which does not involve replacement parts that cost more than $1000.  The individual repair may not be so extensive as to be functionally a replacement of the electric water heater or the existing electric heating, ventilating, or air-conditioning system; and the individual repair may not be part of a larger or major project that is divided into parts to avoid this restriction.

The property owned by the apartment community—or managed by the apartment community management company—is limited to communities that include 100 apartments or more, which means that smaller communities are still required to hire licensed construction professionals to effectuate these minor repairs (unless another exemption would apply). It should also be noted that the statutory addition of this construction licensure exemption does not limit the authority of a municipality or county to adopt or enforce an ordinance, rule or regulation requiring licensure or registration of a person employed as an apartment maintenance technician or apartment repair worker. As such, it is imperative that the construction professional and the apartment complex confirm all state and local licensure requirements to avoid possible charges for unlicensed activity.