Do we have any legal grounds to have the deposit returned?

8 months ago

My mother-in-law, who we have power of attorney with signed an agreement for a remodeling project. She gave the company $1800 as a deposit. After discussing with us and we found out the company was not a licensed contractor we canceled in writing and requested a refund of the deposit. In less than 2 weeks, and no work was done. The company is refusing to return the deposit. saying consulting work was done with her “subs” and they need to be paid. We did some research and found out she is not a contractor at all, but presents herself as such. We are in the state of Florida.

Senior Legal Associate Levelset
477 reviews

If a person or business has fraudulently held themselves out as a licensed contractor, they could face serious legal trouble. Claims like fraud, contracting without a license, contract claims, etc. may all be on the table. You can learn about the penalties for unlicensed contracting here: Penalties for Unlicensed Construction Work in Florida.

Of course, where legal claims or penalties might be on the table, it might be easier to convince a contractor to return the down payment to avoid a full-on legal dispute. As mentioned in that article above – civil and criminal penalties could be on the table for unlicensed contractors. And, contract claims could be available too. In either case, a contractor could face significant penalties or legal costs if they refuse to return a down payment – so leveraging that might make sense.

Finally, if claims do become necessary, there are a few different options for moving forward to recover payment and make life uncomfortable for an unlicensed contractor. First, if they’ve committed fraud or if they’re otherwise in breach of the agreement, bringing legal claims (potentially in Florida small claims court) could be an option. Further, alerting the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation could be useful. What’s more, complaints to the Florida attorney general’s office could be helpful as well.

Disclaimer: The information presented here is not legal advice and should not be construed as such. Rather, this content is provided for informational purposes. Do not act on this information as if it is advice. Further, this post does not create any attorney-client relationship. If you do need legal advice, seek the help of a local attorney.
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