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When HOA/COA maintenance workers become unlicensed contractors

Ongoing maintenance work in large condo or home communities can be a full-time job. Many homeowners associations (HOAs) and condominium owners associations (COAs) have a full-time maintenance worker on staff. That person typically acts as a "handyman," responsible for repairs and upkeep of communal property.

It's difficult to deny the affordability and convenience of having someone onsite to deal with this work. You don't have to seek bids, vet contractors or pay top-dollar for something that could be handled in-house.

However, there's a limit to how much these employees can (or should) do. Some types of work require a licensed contractor. By having their maintenance worker tackle these projects instead, HOAs and COAs might save a buck in the short-term, but they face exposure to costly liability down the road.

What type of work requires a license?

Unlicensed maintenance workers can perform "handyman" services such as:

  • Yard work and landscaping
  • Installation of lights and fans
  • Repair or installation of cabinets, counters, trim, flooring and tile
  • Repair of small appliances
  • Window repair (unless it involves removing or installing windows)
  • Non-structural stonework
  • Painting

However, without a license, they can't perform trade-specific work such as:

  • Plumbing
  • Electrical
  • HVAC repairs or installation
  • Pool or spa repairs
  • Roofing
  • Replacing windows
  • Work that alters the building structure

Why it matters

Florida law imposes strict penalties for unlicensed contractor work. What's more, using maintenance workers as unlicensed contractors can result in poor-quality work or even code violations. Defective work could cost a fortune to remedy, leaving COAs and HOAs in a worse position than if they had just hired a licensed contractor in the first place.

There are gray areas when it comes to determining what crosses the line from maintenance work into trades work that requires a license. If in doubt, consult with an attorney who's knowledgeable in Florida construction law.

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