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 roofing contractor, be aware of strict state requirements for working in Florida before you start packing up your tools.

“The licensing requirement in Florida is one of the most stringent in the country,” says Edie Ousley, spokesperson for the Florida Home Builders Association. “It helps to ensure Floridians are getting the best services possible.”

License Limits The first thing you need to know as an out-of-state contractor is that 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 in addition to 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, and liability and property damage insurance, as well as documentation of financial stability.

Subcontracting Option One way to shorten the process, Ousley says, is to work for a licensed Florida contractor.

“If you're licensed in another state and you want to come here and work, licensed contractors in Florida can hire you as a subcontractor,” she says. The same requirements apply for workers' comp, property damage, and liability insurance.

The best way to get started is to go to the Disaster Contractors Network Web site at www.dcnonline.org. The FHBA started the network after Hurricane Andrew hit south Florida in 1992.

“It was put to the test for the first time after Hurricane Charley,” Ousley says. “It turns out that it works.” You can post your availability and expertise and view a list of contractors looking for assistance.

If you're interested in signing on as a subcontractor with a builder in a specific county, go to www.fhba.com and click on that county's home builder association link for a list of local members. You can also call the FHBA at 850.224.4316. For detailed information on Florida contractor licensing requirements, visit the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation Web site at www.myflorida.com/dbpr, or call 850.437.1395.