Over the past few months, we have seen two Florida contractors scam homeowners and suppliers.
In Pasco County Florida, Over 70 customers of Ike’s Roofing have complained that despite paying the full balance on their projects, material suppliers have been placing liens on their homes. When you think of construction scams, though, good craftsmanship and timely finished projects hardly come to mind. Rather than skipping town, Ike’s continued working on more projects in the area, though eventually, their reputation caught up to them.
Meanwhile, there was another fraud scheme developing just a few hours down the road.
The Jacksonville contractor’s scam included posing as a roofer and forging signatures. Though his company was only responsible for replacing siding, the contractor led a homeowner to believe they were replacing the roof as well. Ultimately, this contractor defrauded at least 20 property owners in the area, each suffering losses of $50,000 or more.
Ethics are important in construction. Contractors like these give the industry a bad name.
How did the two Florida contractors scam homeowners and suppliers?
Ike’s Roofing was accepting complete payment from homeowners upon completion of their projects. Some of the sums were allocated for suppliers, but Ike’s kept the money for itself. Without receiving payment, Ike’s suppliers filed mechanics liens on the properties in order to recover. Having provided full payment, property owners were surprised when liens were filed on their homes. According to reports, many of the victims of this scam were elderly homeowners.
In Jacksonville, Juan Carlos Gonzales was posing as the roofing contractor while his company completed other work on site. Gonzales met homeowners after a storm damaged homes in the area. Gonzales accepted sums from homeowners and their insurance companies, forging a property owner’s signature on at least one occasion. Without receiving payment, the actual roofing contractors and suppliers filed liens on the properties.
How to avoid problems like this
The top-down payment method in the construction industry causes a litany of problems. Here, this method of payment allowed Ike’s to obtain payment that in reality wasn’t theirs. We do not yet live in a construction payment utopia, so for now we are stuck with unique problems and protections to suit them. Before releasing full payment to a contractor, it is wise to request a lien waiver from everyone else who worked on the project. Everybody can benefit from lien waivers, and trusting a contractor too much is dangerous for homeowners and subcontractors alike. Utilize waivers as much as possible.
With Gonzales, the solution is a bit simpler. A property owner should always know about all parties working on their project. Just as subcontractors should gather information at the start of a project, so too should homeowners. Legislatures are always stepping in to promote fairness in the construction industry, but covering your own backside is the still the safest measure.
Previously, we have provided a fact sheet for securing your lien rights in Florida as well as an in depth look at Notice to Owner requirements and many other considerations in Florida lien law. Additional information regarding Florida Lien Laws and Notice Requirements can be found in Levelset’s resources, here: Florida Lien and Notice FAQs.