So you’ve finally saved up enough to build that new deck. While this would have been a great home improvement project for you to do, working full-time and taking care of the kids leaves you with very little time to do this. So you go with a co-worker’s recommendation to hire a certain contractor. You hire the contractor, and even have him sign a well-drafted contract stating the specifics of what has to be done. He goes to work, and you go about your busy life, periodically daydreaming about the great parties you are going to host on that deck. Unfortunately for you, those dreams came to a screeching halt when the contractor just suddenly stopped working on the deck, and you find out that the work he did do was very subpar. Adding insult to injury, you find out that he is not a licensed contractor! Fortunately the law provides you with several options to go after this bad actor. The options include criminal action, administrative action, and civil action.
In Florida it is absolutely against the law for a contractor to do business without being licensed. If you find yourself to be a victim of an unlicensed contractor, report the matter to law enforcement immediately. A law enforcement officer will investigate the matter and if there is sufficient probable cause they will arrest and/or refer the matter to the State Attorney’s Office. A prosecutor at the State Attorney’s Office will then determine whether to formally charge the individual for unlicensed contracting. A first time offender would be charged with a first degree misdemeanor facing up to one year in jail, and if they’ve been found guilty of this crime before they would then be charged with a third degree felony facing up to five years in prison. In addition to incarceration, a judge can order the unlicensed contractor to pay restitution to you.
In Florida, licensure violations are governed by the Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation (DBPR). If you find yourself in a scenario where an unlicensed contractor defrauded you, you can file a complaint with the DBPR. They are a good source to hold these individuals accountable. They can do so by imposing fines, costs, etc. They take this very seriously. Their website states “Unlicensed activity is a serious threat to the health, safety, and welfare of Florida residents and visitors. The department has made vigorous enforcement of licensure regulation one of its highest priorities.”
Finally you may also file a lawsuit on an unlicensed contractor. For example, if they violated the provisions of the contract for the job, you may have a claim for “breach of contract.” Let’s say they did the work but the work was done poorly, you may sue for “construction defect.” Or maybe they ran off with tools you allowed them to use to get the job done. You may go after them for “civil theft.” If successful, you will be entitled to damages that you incurred as a result of their actions or lack thereof.
Hiring the right contractor is crucial! However if you made the mistake of hiring the wrong contractor, hiring the right attorney is crucial! If you or a loved one suffered a financial loss as a result of an unlicensed contractor, give our experienced attorneys a call for a free consultation. We hope that the contractor you hire is fully licensed and does a great job, but if that isn’t the case, Berkowitz & Myer is ready to help.