How Licensing Rules Make It Harder for Floridians to Rebuild Post-Irma

Hundreds of thousands of evacuated Floridians are headed home to see the damage Irma caused. Many of them will need to make repairs; replacing drywall ruined by flooding, fixing a roof damaged by winds or rebuilding a carport smashed by a fallen tree. 

But thanks to some outlandish Florida laws, residents trying to rebuild will likely have a hard time finding contractors to fix their homes and businesses. The Houston Chronicle explains why:  

In Florida, a license is required for most significant remodeling and construction work. The chapter of the state code that governs those licenses is nearly 60,000 words. Before someone even takes the contracting exam, they need to have either a four-year degree in a related field, or four years of proven experience. Just like a lawyer or accountant, they need to demonstrate that they’ve taken continuing education classes in order to keep their licenses current.

Not only do aspiring contractors in Florida have to shell out money for four years of tuition, they have to pay over $400 in fees to get their license. This is some of the repair work Florida thinks is so complex that it requires four years of classes and continuing education:

·      Installing drywall for a business

·      Installing a dishwasher

·      Rebuilding a carport

·      Cleaning air conditioning ducts

·      Repairing a roof

It gets even more absurd: interior designers in Florida need six years of education before they can do crazy things like pick out furniture or replace drapes for businesses that were flooded.

County-Level Licensing

Depending on what county you live in, there may be additional rules on the books. Miami-Dade, where punishing winds and a storm surge caused significant damagerequires licenses for all kinds of jobs. 

You’d need to complete one to three years of experience, pay $730 in fees, and in some cases pass a test with a C-grade or better before you can:

·      Caulk windows

·      Install a flagpole

·      Replace a canvas or metal awning

·      Install a storm door

·      Replace drywall in a home

·      Replace a fence

Licensing winds up being a huge hurdle for aspiring workers. Many of them can’t afford the tuition, time off of work and fees required to get a government permission slip.

That’s great news for existing contractors. They’ll have more than enough work for months to come. But for Florida businesses and families trying to put their lives back together, licensing could mean steep prices and long wait times for basic repairs. 

Less Licensing in the Lone Star State

Like Florida, Texas is trying to rebuild after a natural disaster. But unlike Florida, Texas has far less burdensome licensing requirements. Permission slips aren’t needed for the kind of work that will be in high demand like drywall and roof repair.

And for those contracting jobs that do require a license, the requirements are significantly more reasonable than “a degree and proof of continuing education.”

Texas’s doesn’t require licenses because the Lone Star State already knows what study after study concludes: stricter licensing requirements don’t actually improve the quality or safety of goods and services. Even the Obama White House said so

Florida has realized there will be an increased demand for contractors in the aftermath of Irma. The government agency that reviews licensing applications announced they would do their best to continue functioning because “it is crucial that construction professionals are licensed and available to work during this time of emergency.”

There’s a better approach to ensuring there are enough contractors to go around. Instead of trying to keep a government board functioning during a Category 4 hurricane, maybe Florida should just get rid of their ridiculous requirements altogether. 

Want to learn more about occupational licensing? Take a look at our page on corporate welfare or check out our blog for posts like “Louisiana Ends Its War on Lemonade Stands,” “In Nebraska, You Are Now Free to Braid Without a License,” or “Occupational Licenses Can Squash Opportunity.”

Author Generation Opportunity

More posts by Generation Opportunity