Filing a Complaint Against a Contractor
When a property owner wishes to build a new structure or renovate to an existing building, he/she must enter into a construction contract with a contractor, which, if done correctly, delineates all the rights and responsibilities of each party. Retaining the services of an experienced construction law attorney, and, especially, one with experience in drafting and negotiating construction contracts, can be crucial to ensuring that the contract is as comprehensive as possible. Further, if something is not to the property owner’s liking, having a well-written contract to refer to is key. If not, then the discussion between the property owner and the contractor can devolve into a dispute. Nevertheless, the failure of a contractor to perform according to the terms of the construction contract, as well as the failure to achieve a resolution in the matter, can be cause for filing a complaint with the appropriate contractor licensing authority. In these cases, having an attorney to assist the property owner becomes vital, as noted in this article discussing the resignation of the Director of the Pinellas County Contractor Licensing Department amid an independent review of the Department. Specifically, in the article, an investigation by the Tampa Bay Times uncovered information regarding the Department’s failure to monitor complaints or adjudicate disputes between property owners and contractors. A discussion concerning the steps involved in filing a complaint against a contractor with the appropriate authority, and a cautionary point, will follow below.
Filing a Complaint
If a disagreement exists between the property owner and the contractor, Florida law permits the property owner to file a complaint with the appropriate authority, typically a county contractor licensing board. Once received, the licensing board will review all allegations made by the property owner and confirm the accuracy of the complaint. After this initial review, a second evaluation will be conducted, this time of a substantive nature, to ensure that the property owner has demonstrated sufficient probable cause that a violation has occurred. Given that the phrase “probable cause” necessarily implies a legal conclusion, it is always best to seek the assistance of an experienced construction law attorney when preparing these documents.
If the complaint holds up, it will be sent to a governing trade board, at which time a hearing, which may be formal or informal depending on the county, will be scheduled with the contractor. The governing board has the authority to suspend or revoke the license of a contractor if it decides that the contractor did not perform according to the terms of the construction contract.
In addition, the property owner may also seek relief through a lawsuit. However, it is important to first have an attorney review the terms of the construction contract, as most contracts include an arbitration or mediation clause that either must be satisfied prior to going to trial, or is intended to be a substitute for trial. Additionally, the property owner may submit a statement through an online review database, or through the Better Business Bureau.
Proceed with Caution, Though
It is extremely important that all arguments presented in a complaint, in a lawsuit, or in a review are accurate. Failure to do so may subject the property owner to a claim of defamation. Further, all statements made in any such document should be factual, and not merely conjecture or opinion.
Seek Legal Advice
If you entered into a construction contract and believe that the contractor did not perform according to the relevant terms, contact an attorney experienced in construction law as soon as possible. The attorneys at Linkhorst & Hockin, P.A. have years of experience in enforcing construction contracts, including filing complaints against contractors for non-compliant work. We can use this experience to do the same for you and ensure you receive the maximum compensation possible for the contractor’s failures. Contact our Jupiter office today.