If you’re a contractor doing any sort of repair, restoration, improvement or construction to a residential property in Florida, and receive a deposit or initial payment totaling more than 10% of the contract price, know you’re on a time sensitive clock.  You could even be exposed to criminal liability.

Florida law requires such a contractor to apply for a permit within 30 days of receiving payment unless the work doesn’t require a permit.  And unless he or she has just cause, the contractor must also start work within 90 days after all the necessary permits are issued or refund monies paid.  There are exceptions.  If the customer agreed to longer periods in some written agreement, then the contractor may be excused from meeting these deadlines. Your construction lawyer can better advise you.

If the contractor fails to comply, the customer can send a written demand via certified mail, return receipt requested, asking that the contractor apply for the permits, start work or refund the payment made.

Recent amendments to this law now also allow a court to infer that a contractor does not have just cause for any failure to comply if the contractor fails to respond to the customer’s written demand.  And if that happens, the customer can seek to press criminal charges against the contractor. The contractor’s failure to refund monies within 30 days of receiving a written demand from the customer can be inferred by the court as an intent by the contractor to defraud the customer.

These are serious consequences, which are best not ignored.

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