In the wake of natural disasters, a lot of the same issues pop up for homeowners and contractors. Rather than publish similar posts after each storm, we thought it’d be a good idea to create one source applicable to every state for every disaster. Thus, The Playbook for Disaster Recovery Construction Projects was born.
There will be some differences depending on the state, though, so here are some Florida-specific issues to keep in mind following Hurricane Irma.
Click Here To Download the 2-page Disaster Recovery Cheat Sheet
Recovering From Hurricane Irma – Florida Specifics
In Florida, unlicensed parties may not file mechanics liens and unlicensed contractors can be subject to treble damages and attorney fees for negligent unlicensed construction. By performing work that requires licensure, an unlicensed contractor may also be committing misdemeanor or felony. Their contracts are unenforceable and they may even be required to repay what funds they do receive. To search a contractor’s license, here’s Florida’s handy portal.
Here’s an in depth look at potential penalties for unlicensed Florida contractors.
Public property will be damaged, too. Because these projects are paid for with public funds, the records surrounding public projects must remain accessible to the public. Recent legislation in the Sunshine State affect how Florida contractors must provide this information, and we’ve got a breakdown here.
Also, be careful when trying to secure a public project, because the bar for corrupt conduct has been lowered for Florida contractors. Previously, in order to face prosecution a party needed to act with intent to corrupt- a party would not be liable for corrupt actions unless it could be proven that the act was undertaken in an attempt to corrupt. Under the new changes, a contractor needs only to “knowingly and intentionally” act. If their conduct is later deemed corrupt, a contractor’s intent is irrelevant as long as the contractor knowingly and intentionally completed the act.
Florida Homeowners’ Recovery Fund
The Florida Homeowners’ Recovery Fund is available to some victims of bad contractors. The fund operates as a safety net for consumer recovery for those suffering monetary damage due to misconduct of a licensed contractor, abandonment of a project, or a fraudulent statement of a contractor on a construction, repair, or improvement project.
Should a contractor fail to fully compensate an injured homeowner even after a court compels it, the homeowner can seek recovery from the fund. With recent legislation passed, more contractors will be included within the fund’s parameters.
The changes to the Homeowners’ Construction Recovery Fund can be found here on page 18.
Here’s some other, non-construction information we thought might be helpful. If you have an addition, please feel free to comment on this post and we can update it as we go along.
Legal Aid: A list of Florida legal aid websites can be found here.
Healthcare: Information on Miami area hospitals can be found here.
Disaster Loans: People and businesses can apply for disaster loans with the U.S. Small Business Association.
Animals: For information on pets and animal rescue following Irma, bestfriends.org is a great resource. Be on the lookout for snakes, fire ants, and rodents as the flood waters recede- they can present serious health hazards. Gators may be an issue, too.
The aftermath of natural disasters is tough for everyone involved. Unfortunately, some bad actors in the construction industry use the chaos as an opportunity to rip off property owners. We’ve seen Florida contractors scam property owners after a storm before, and it will probably happen again recovering from Hurricane Irma. We hope the Playbook and other information in this post help owners dodge dishonest contractors and help the good ones protect their right to payment.