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For over a decade, construction businesses in Florida have been required to obtain and maintain Qualified Business Licenses (QBLs). No more.

As of October 1, 2009, the amendment to Chapter 489 of the Florida Statutes eliminated all traces of QBLs — called “certificates of authority” within the statutes themselves. Among other things, the amendment clears up any ongoing confusion as to whether the lack of a QBL renders a business unlicensed according to Chapters 455 and 489.

Post-2009 amendment, the Florida legislature still requires that individuals and sole proprietors be licensed. Furthermore, all corporations, partnerships, limited liability companies, or other business organizations still must register or certify a qualifying agent in order to perform construction work. This is to ensure that the business’s activities are monitored and controlled by a duly licensed individual who is personally accountable for the quality and legality of the work, as well as for the health, safety, and welfare of the public.

Previously, however, the state imposed an additional requirement on all construction businesses. The registered or certified qualifying agent had to obtain a certificate of authority. The procurement of a certificate of authority cost a small fee and required the furnishing of largely redundant information regarding the business and the qualifying agent. On top of the renewal and upkeep of his own contractor’s license, the qualifying agent also had to renew the certificate of authority every 2 years. Additionally, each certificate of authority was assigned a number which had to be posted on advertisements and vehicles, just like the qualifying agent’s contracting license number.

In other words, QBLs were a hassle for businesses which bestowed little benefit to the public at large. In addition, many construction businesses didn’t even know about the QBL requirement, which left them vulnerable to several penalties imposed by Chapter 489.

The removal of the QBL requirement is not explicitly retroactively applicable. However, the argument can be made that the amendments are procedural and not substantive — in other words, the amendments do not impair vested rights, create new obligations, or impose new penalties — and therefore retroactive application of the amendment is permissible to remove the QBL requirement.

Given that the amendment clearly eliminates obligations and penalties; that courts maintain a narrow definition of vested rights ; and that the precedent has been set that amendments to Chapter 489 which abrogate the impact of certificates of authority are retroactively applicable, arguments for retroactive application of the 2009 QBL elimination despite the absence of legislative intent might not be far-fetched.

§ 489.119.
§ 489.101.
§ 489.119.
§§ 489.109 and 489.119.
§ 489.119.
This included criminal penalties (§ 489.119), fines or loss of licenses (§§ 489.114, 489.129, and 489.132), and—up until the 2003 amendment to § 489.128—the unenforceability of contracts.
Promontory Enters. v. Southern Eng’g & Contr., Inc., 864 So. 2d 479 (Fla 5th DCA 2004).
R.A.M. of S. Fla., Inc. v. WCI Cmtys., Inc., 869 So. 2d 1210 (Fla. 2d DCA 2004).
Promontory, 864 So. 2d 479.