Construction Law FAQs

Do I have to use a licensed contractor on my construction project?

It depends. Projects like installing a driveway, changing the air conditioning filter or installing standalone awnings can all be done by yourself. However, the following types of projects may require a contractor or license:

  • Building a carport
  • Constructing a roof
  • Installing a dishwasher
  • Installing central air conditioning
  • Replacing a swimming pool pump
  • Plumbing water repairs when connected to drinking water
  • Building with metal
  • Building a barn
  • Building a detached garage
  • Installing drywall where the load bearing area is affected

What is a mechanic’s lien?

Florida's mechanic's lien law is complicated, but it boils down to a simple concept: A contractor or laborer can ensure that he or she receives due payment for a construction project.

Can my contractor bill me for more than his estimate?

Estimates are merely that; when labor takes longer than originally expected, or material substitutes are used, the actual cost will vary in either direction. However, you should consult a construction attorney if you believe a contractor is inflating charges.

Is an oral contract legally valid?

If both parties are considered credible, and if a third party witnesses the oral contract, it can be considered a valid agreement. A Gainesville construction law firm can provide more specific information.

What is the difference between a building inspection and a home inspection?

They may seem similar, considering a home is a building. However, a home inspector provides his or her written opinions on the home's condition based on visual examination, whereas the building inspector ensures that the home complies with Florida building code.

What is a construction defect?

Florida files this under Chapter 558 of its statutes, otherwise referred to as the Construction Defect Statute. Under this chapter, a defect hinders the function of a building, and the owner must file a claim with a Gainesville attorney to seek compensation. Contractors must respond to a served notice within 45 days.

What does the builder’s warranty really cover?

In general, a builder's warranty will cover the materials and labor used for a given construction project. These tend to last up to 2 years, while coverage on the home itself tend to last up to 10 years.

How do I prove that a defect exists?

A team of experts can help locate and provide the necessary evidence for sloppy craftsmanship. For example, evidence might manifest in the form of substantial cracks in the foundation of a home, bowing in the walls, slanting of the floors, faulty framing or improper drainage leading to significant moisture and water damage.

What should I do if the developer has agreed to make the necessary repairs?

If the contractor agrees to repair the faults in his or her construction, the repairs must be provided within an agreed upon time. Failure to do so allows you to further the lawsuit for compensation.

Where do I get the money to pay for a lawsuit?

Lawsuits are not cheap endeavors, but that should not stop you from seeking your rightfully owed compensation. By hiring reliable construction lawyers, you'll have the ability to discuss payment plans that may not even begin until after you've won your case. In other cases, taking out a short-term loan can be helpful in affording attorney retainer fees.

How do I recover if the builder / developer is out of business, cannot be located, or is bankrupt?

Before hiring any contractor, it's a good idea to determine whether or not the company is capable of paying for any damages that may occur during the lifetime of the project. In most cases, this is assured by having insurance. Even when the developer is bankrupt or completely falls off the face of the earth, the associated insurance company would be your point of contact for processing owed compensation.

Will the homeowner’s insurance or homeowners association’s insurance company cover damages caused by construction defects?

In most cases, you will not receive any compensation from a homeowners association's insurance plan for damages that are caused by a defect in construction. While this will naturally vary depending on your policy, the majority of plans explicitly exclude coverage for damages as a result of faulty design.

Am I required to make repairs while the lawsuit is pending? Can I recover those costs in the lawsuit?

Under Florida law, repairs need to be made even if the lawsuit has not yet concluded. After all, the structure remains vulnerable in its current condition, so it is not safe to leave it as is. Understandably, this is not an inexpensive endeavor, either. Fortunately, it is indeed possible to recover the costs through the lawsuit.

Can I sell or refinance my home during the litigation?

Yes, although it is important to keep in mind that all defects must be reported when selling a home, which can decrease its value to buyers.

What Florida statutes generally cover Florida construction lien law and how are they construed?

Under Title XL, Chapter 713, construction liens and its associated law are governed. This includes payment on contracts, liens on private property, licensing requirements and much more.

What is a construction lien?

This refers to a legal claim a contractor can make against a private property when payments have not been made.

What is lienable?

Private properties.

What are the critical pre-lien notices required under Florida Construction Lien Law?

In Florida, all contractors who cannot directly interact with a building owner must provide a pre-lien notice within 45 days of the initial furnishing labor.

What are the basics and functionality of the Notice of Commencement?

This mandatory document must be filed when improvements or repair of property must be made. It is filed with a local county office and details the expected construction period.

What should I do if I am a lienor and have received a Notice of Termination?

This sworn statement indicates a project has been terminated. It cannot be recorded until you've been fully paid. Consult with a Gainesville attorney for information specific to your case.

How are liens waived, released and satisfied?

After receiving the final payment, a lienor completes a form to release the lien, which will then satisfy the lien.

What is a Contractor’s Final Payment Affidavit?

Contractors must provide these statements to verify that the lienor has received his or her full payment, even if the lienor doesn't request it.

How are unlicensed contractors treated under Florida Lien law? What disciplinary actions and criminal penalties can be imposed for abuse of Florida’s Construction lien laws?

Section 489.127 Florida Statutes notes that contractors must have a license to operate certain types of services. Being convicted of unlicensed contracting can result in a $1,000 fine and 12 months of jail or probation.

What is a fraudulent lien and what are the penalties for filing one?

Penalties for this crime are strict; in Florida, the perpetrator will need to repay damages from court fees, attorney fees, discharging the lien and more.

What is a homeowners association?

This association supervises a community's operations and impose an assessment that later becomes a lien if the homeowner does not pay.

Who can be held liable for construction accident injuries?

This depends on the circumstances, but any of the following may be held responsible:

  • The owner, when the owner could have prevented the accident
  • The contractor, if the worker was careless
  • The architect, when code regulations were not followed
  • Manufacturers, when products cause injuries