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Filing a Complaint Against a Construction Contractor

Managing a construction project in Florida can be an exciting endeavor, but steps need to be taken by businesses and consumers to notice red flags when dealing with potential contractors. The construction industry is rife with unscrupulous individuals who may try to take advantage of unsuspecting homeowners or even experienced property developers. By being proactive and recognizing the warning signs, buyers can protect themselves from financial loss, subpar workmanship, and costly legal entanglements. 

If buyers end up in a situation where they have been taken advantage of by contractors, recourse may be sought by officially making a complaint.

Making a Complaint Against a Construction Contractor in Florida

Dealing with an unscrupulous or negligent contractor can be a frustrating and overwhelming experience. However, it’s crucial to take the necessary steps to protect your rights as a consumer and hold the contractor accountable for any wrongdoing. In the State of Florida, there are several avenues available for filing a formal complaint against a contractor, ensuring that your concerns are heard and addressed appropriately.

There are three venues where consumers and businesses can file a complaint against a contractor operating in the State of Florida:

1. Department of Business & Professional Regulation

The Department of Business & Professional Regulation (DBPR) is responsible for licensing and regulating various professions, including contractors, in Florida.

Buyers can file a complaint with them online at www.myfloridalicense.com or by phone at (850) 487-1395. Filing a complaint with the DBPR can initiate an investigation into the contractor’s actions and potentially lead to disciplinary action, such as fines, license suspension, or revocation.

2. The Attorney General’s Office

The Attorney General’s Office investigates and prosecutes instances of fraud, deceptive trade practices, and other consumer-related legal issues. People and organizations can file a complaint online at www.myfloridalegal.com or by phone toll-free at 1-866-9-NO-SCAM. Filing a complaint with the Attorney General’s Office can result in legal action against the contractor if evidence of wrongdoing is found.

3. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

This department acts as the State’s consumer complaint clearinghouse, assisting consumers in resolving disputes with businesses, including contractors. Buyers can file a complaint at www.floridaconsumerhelp.com. The department will investigate the complaint and may mediate a resolution or refer the case to the appropriate authority for further action.

When filing a complaint, it’s essential to provide detailed information about the contractor, the nature of the complaint, and any supporting documentation or evidence on hand, such as contracts, invoices, photographs, or correspondence. Buyers would do well to be prepared to provide a clear and concise account of the events that led to the complaint.

Remember, filing a formal complaint is a crucial step in holding contractors accountable for their actions and protecting the rights of consumers in Florida. 

Recognizing Red Flags

By being vigilant and recognizing the following red flags, buyers can increase your chances of hiring a reputable and trustworthy construction contractor in Florida, ensuring a smoother and more successful project.

Red Flag 1: Contractors with a pushy or disrespectful sales process

A reputable contractor will respect a buyers’ boundaries and allow them to make an informed decision without exerting undue pressure. If a contractor becomes overly persistent, aggressive, or disrespectful during the sales process, it’s a clear red flag.

Red Flag 2: Contractors with a bad market reputation

Buyers can check with the Department of Business & Professional Regulation (DBPR) at (850) 487-1395 to determine whether contractors have any complaints lodged against them.  In addition, reading Google Reviews and looking for patterns of complaints or dissatisfied customers is another good way to avoid red flags. Lastly, buyers can visit the Better Business Bureau website to check for any unresolved complaints or concerning reports about the contractor.

Red Flag 3: Costly and Complex Financing Schemes 

Buyers can benefit by knowing exactly how much they are expected to pay over the life of the loan, including the deposit, interest, fees, and regular payments.  Some red flags to look out for include “balloon payment” agreements and others where a lump sum may be due at some point in the future, as these can damage cash flow if they are unforeseen.

Red Flag 4:  Upfront Payment in Full or Large Initial Deposits

Buyers should beware of paying more than 50% as a deposit or paying for repairs and other construction work in full in advance. Reputable contractors will not demand full payment upfront or require excessively large deposits. This practice is often a red flag for potential scams or otherwise an indication that the contractors involved have a pattern of not completing projects .

5. Avoid working with unlicensed and uninsured contractors:

It is best practice to check for specific contractor licenses depending on the work to be completed (e.g., electrical, plumbing, etc.) at www.myfloridalicense.com. Be sure to know if contractors need to comply with county-specific licensing or certificate requirements.

6. Avoid Contractors with Unusually High or Low Prices

It is recommended that buyers canvas the market and obtain competing bids from at least three reputable providers to establish a reasonable price range.  Extremely low bids may indicate subpar materials or workmanship, while exorbitantly high prices may suggest overcharging.

7. Avoid Contractors Without Written Agreements

A comprehensive contract protects both parties and outlines the scope of work, materials, timelines, and payment terms. It is also a reflection of the contractors integrity, professionalism, accountability and experience.  Contractors who insist on doing business “with a handshake” may seem trustworthy, but may be trying to avoid being held to the terms of a formal agreement. 

One line to ensure exists in any agreement is the required cancellation language that makes a contractors terms and conditions compliant with Florida’s Statutes:

“Either party to a home improvement contract may cancel the contract by the exercise of the right to rescind until midnight of the third business day following the execution of the contract by giving notice to the other party by either certified mail or registered mail.” Florida Statutes 520.72

Be prepared to have an experienced construction lawyer review the contract:

Having a legal professional review the contract can help identify potential issues or unfavorable clauses before you sign.

The Importance of an Attorney

While the complaint process provides avenues for addressing contractor misconduct, pursuing legal action against a contractor often requires navigating complex laws and regulations. It’s advisable for consumers and businesses not to “go it alone” in such situations. Instead, they should seek representation from an experienced construction attorney. A skilled legal professional can help evaluate the merits of the case, ensure proper documentation and evidence are gathered, navigate the intricate legal processes, and advocate effectively for the client’s rights and interests. Construction attorneys are well-versed in the nuances of Florida’s construction laws, contract interpretations, and legal remedies available, increasing the chances of a favorable outcome in court. Attempting to handle a lawsuit against a contractor without legal representation can be daunting and may jeopardize the case’s success.

South Florida Law

Resolving a dispute in the construction industry can be a mammoth task fraught with liability and full of heavily regulated processes.  Beware of wading into such a situation without an experienced construction attorney.  Construction professionals and contracting parties can rely on an experienced construction attorney from South Florida Law to draft and deliver notices, advise on processes, mediate and litigate. We are a law firm with the attention to detail of a boutique law firm but with big law firm resources. We are able to provide our clients with both attention to detail and the resources needed to overcome challenges. Are you a property owner considering legal action against a construction contractor?  If so, reach out to us today at (954) 900-8885 or via our contact form.

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