Do Homeowners Have Remedies After Hiring an Unlicensed Contractor?
Conducting business as an unlicensed contractor is a crime in Florida. Therefore, as a homeowner you have special civil remedies in regard to the harm that you have endured by hiring an unlicensed contractor. In Florida, the legislature has adopted a statute intended to punish unlicensed contractors. According to Florida Statute section 768.0425, a homeowner that has been harmed by an unlicensed contractor is entitled to damages and attorney fees.
What Damages can a Homeowner Collect Against an Unlicensed Contractor?
Unlicensed contractors can be liable for punitive damages, criminal penalties, and even the homeowner’s attorney fees for being an unlicensed contractor. In Florida, you can file a lawsuit against your unlicensed contractor for breach of contract or even construction defect. If the work by your unlicensed contractor was done poorly you can sue for construction defect and if your unlicensed contractor violated a provision of your contract you can sue for breach of contract.
As a homeowner who hired an unlicensed contractor who did not fulfill his/her obligations, you are entitled to treble damages, which means that as a homeowner you can receive triple the amount of your actual damages. Therefore, if the work that was unfulfilled amounted to $10,000, you may collect $30,000 plus attorney fees. The Unfair Trade Practices Act has provided consumers who have hired unlicensed contracts with strong legal protection when they find themselves in these situations.
How to Ensure Your Contractor is Licensed in Florida
Although you may have remedies after hiring an unlicensed contractor, it is better to make sure your contractor is licensed before they begin the work. The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) offers a license search whereby residents can search the name of the potential contractor to determine whether he or she is licensed with the state. On the license portal you can search by contractor’s name or business name and even narrow down the search further based on the license category such as landscaping or engineering.