Lakeland Unlicensed Contracting & Fraudulent Liens Lawyer
Unlicensed Contracting & Fraudulent Liens
If your contractor is not performing the work you hired them to do – if they are taking too long, charging too much, or performing shoddy and defective work – you might think that one option you have is simply not to pay them. Doing this might give you partial relief, but it won’t help you get the job finished or help you recover any damages you suffered from the builder’s breach of contract. You also need to watch out for a powerful tool in the contractor’s belt, which is the ability to put a lien on your property to force payment under a contract. The situation only gets more complicated if the contractor turns out to be unlicensed or is trying to enforce a lien in bad faith. The Ruel Law Firm can help. Our Central Florida construction defect attorney has spent well over a decade handling claims involving contractors, subcontractors, suppliers, property owners, developers and other parties to a construction contract who find themselves in a dispute over the work performed (or not performed). Learn more about Florida law concerning unlicensed contracting and fraudulent liens, and contact our experienced Lakeland construction defect lawyer today.
Help With Unlicensed Contracting Claims
Homeowners who are unfamiliar with construction projects might not know how important it is to hire a licensed contractor. They might think that a contractor’s license is just something extra that some contractors get so they can improve their image and charge more, and the homeowner can save money by using an unlicensed contractor who can do the job just as well or better. This is not the case. Florida law prohibits unlicensed contractors from performing construction work, and they can be fined as much as $10,000 for doing so. And it’s not just the unlicensed contractor’s problem; it’s yours too. Here are just a few of the important reasons not to use an unlicensed contractor:
- They could perform shoddy workmanship, and you have no way to hold them accountable. They are not bonded or insured.
- An unlicensed contractor cannot get a building permit from the local building department.
- Any damage you suffer from construction defects will not be covered by your insurance if you used an unlicensed contractor.
- An unlicensed contractor can (and will) sue you if they get hurt on your property.
- Contractors who willfully violate the law by refusing to get a license might be unscrupulous in other areas, and you could find them to be difficult or even dangerous people to deal with.
You might get tricked or persuaded to hire an unlicensed contractor for your construction project, not knowing any better, and you might be legitimately concerned about how to deal with a construction dispute that arises over payment or a construction defect. Being unlicensed works against the contractor too. Construction liens are the main tool contractors have to ensure they get paid on a construction project, but under Florida law, unlicensed contractors cannot enforce a lien. An unlicensed contractor cannot legally enforce their contract, meaning you are not legally obligated to pay them, but an unlicensed contractor can be a difficult party to deal with on your own. If you got involved with an unlicensed contractor and find yourself with legal issues to sort out, contact the Ruel Law Firm for a free consultation to discuss your options and get advice on how best to proceed.
You could also file a complaint with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) for various violations, and they can reprimand or fine the contractor or suspend or revoke any licenses they do happen to have. But this complaint will not allow you to recover any fees you paid or seek remedies for any injuries you suffered. The DBPR website is a great place to search for unlicensed contractors as well as find any public complaints lodged against a licensed contractor before you sign a contract, but for help after the fact when you’ve suffered damage from an unlicensed contractor, the DBPR recommends you consult a private attorney.
Help With Fraudulent Liens
Through a construction lien, contractors, subcontractors, and material suppliers can ensure they get paid on a project by placing a lien on the property. That property then cannot be sold or encumbered with good title until the lien is paid off. Also, contractors can move to enforce the lien by getting a judgment that could force the owner to sell the property to pay the contractor. A construction lien is a powerful tool in the hands of a contractor.
Liens have to be filed according to statutory requirements. Filing a lien improperly can result in the lien being considered fraudulent. A fraudulent lien is not just unenforceable against the property owner; the owner could take action to recover their damages, including their attorney’s fees and court costs in fighting the lien, along with punitive damages up to the difference between the amount claimed and the amount actually due. Willfully filing a fraudulent lien is also a third-degree felony in Florida.
Contractors file fraudulent liens when they file liens for an excessive amount, for work not performed, for work not necessary to do the job, or after an excessive delay in performance. A lien filed in bad faith can be considered fraudulent under Florida law. Specifically, according to section 713.31(2)(a), a fraudulent lien can be a lien based on any of the following:
- Willfully exaggerating the amount the lien is claimed for
- Willfully including a claim for work not performed
- Willfully including a claim for materials not furnished
- Compiling a claim with such willful and gross negligence as to amount to a willful exaggeration
A fraudulent lien cannot be enforced in Florida. If a contractor tries to enforce a lien against you, arguing that the lien is fraudulent is a complete defense to enforcing the lien. If the lien is fraudulent, the contractor forfeits any right to any lien on the property.
A minor mistake or error in a claim of lien, or a good faith dispute as to the amount due does not constitute a willful exaggeration that would defeat an otherwise valid lien. Proving that a lien is fraudulent under Florida law can be simple or complex depending on the facts of the case. The Ruel Law Firm can help you with knowledgeable, professional representation whether resolving a good faith dispute over the amount owed or defending you against the enforcement of a fraudulent lien.
Contact the Ruel Law Firm Today
For help with unlicensed contracting or fraudulent liens in Central Florida from Tampa to Orlando, the Ruel Law Firm is the law firm to turn to for practical advice and effective representation to protect your rights and keep you from being taken advantage of. Contact our experienced Lakeland construction defect lawyer today.