Pity poor Florida. August and September 2004 saw four deadly hurricanes within six weeks, resulting in billions of dollars' worth of damage to homes and businesses and an ongoing, critical need for experienced, licensed construction professionals, especially roofers. But if you're an out-of-state contractor, be aware of strict state requirements for working in Florida before you start packing up your tools.

First, Florida won't necessarily recognize or accept a license from your home state. State law has a provision for license by endorsement, but it's not guaranteed, and it requires approval by the state's contractor licensing board, which meets monthly.

Obtaining a certified contractor's license, which allows a contractor to work anywhere in the state, is a lengthy, rigorous process that includes a two-day exam (given once a month) and a thorough check of the applicant's financial stability and proof of workers' comp and liability and property damage insurance, says Kristin Ploska, spokesperson for the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation. Contractors are advised to turn in applications to take the exam a month ahead of time. It then takes four to six weeks to get the results. The exam fee is $138; the license itself costs another $409. Working without a license is a felony in the state of Florida.

Contractors who only intend to work in a single county can obtain a registered contractor's license from the local municipality in which they want to work. That process includes passing a local exam to obtain a competency card and an occupational license. These contractors also must have workers'comp insurance or an exemption, liability and property damage insurance, and documentation of financial stability.

For detailed information on Florida contractor licensing requirements, visit www.myflorida.com/dbpr, or call 850.437.1395. —Pat Curry. This article originally appeared in REPLACEMENT CONTRACTOR.