Being a general contractor is a fantastic job. Unfortunately, things can go wrong. A property owner may be dissatisfied with your work. Maybe there’s a sudden disagreement about payment. Perhaps, you’re fired without explanation. If you find yourself in a situation such as these, you’ll need to know what rights and protections you have under Florida law.
Florida contractors are people who undertake the tasks of remodeling, building, fixing, or destroying property for payment. Florida laws define more than ten types of contractors. Unfortunately, general contractors are often the contractors who wind up threatened with lawsuits. You are a general contractor if you do not limit your services to a specific construction, such as pools and spas. You also need to be licensed, but you do not need a license to perform every general contracting job.
If a property owner sues you, they will have to prove that you were negligent. You may be found liable for negligence if you didn’t act reasonably towards anyone you owed a duty to, and that failure caused damages. As a general contractor, you may be held liable for the negligence of a subcontractor whom you’ve hired out. Because some construction jobs require licenses, you may be found liable for negligence if you’re unlicensed. Moreover, you can be negligent if you fail to properly supervise your workers or train them. Fortunately, you have several defenses at your disposal.
If a property owner accuses you of being negligent, don’t wait. Call an expert Florida general contractor attorney today. Call Koberlein Law Offices toll-free at 877.556.2889 or contact us online for a free consultation.
Because you’re a contractor, much of your case may be governed by contract law. In Florida, most contracts are formed when:
- There’s mutual agreement
- There’s an offer
- That offer is accepted
- And consideration (i.e., money, goods) is exchanged
If a property owner threatens you with a lawsuit, they will likely accuse you of breach of contract. If so, there are several defenses at your disposal.
Substantial Performance—In construction negligence cases, substantial performance is one of the most common and thorough defenses. If you performed substantially, then the result of your work is so nearly equivalent to what was agreed upon that you might argue you held up your end of the bargain. Let’s suppose a homeowner told you to use brown wood to add a balcony to their house. But you wound up using light brown wood. The homeowner is upset and wants to withhold payment unless you tear down the balcony and start from scratch.
Fortunately, a breach such as this isn’t likely to be significant. Also, it is likely that you made a good faith effort (honest conduct) to comply with the contractual terms. After all, there are all sorts of brown shades, and this could be an easy enough mistake to make.
Impossibility is another defense. This defense arises when it is literally impossible, or downright impractical, for you to continue performing. Let’s say you’re supposed to have a building constructed by April 14th. What if it storms nonstop from March to May 1st? You could easily slip and fall from the rooftop, or a weighty beam could slide down and severely injure you. Certainly, you can’t be expected to perform under these conditions. Sudden hospitalization or inability to secure resources may also render performance impractical.
In cases such as these, you are not obligated to fulfill the construction contract. Bear in mind that there are exceptions to this law, however. For example, if your own actions or inactions resulted in the impossibility of performance, you may not use this defense.
Statute of Frauds—As you may know, not every contracting job requires a written agreement, but most of them do. Depending on the nature of the contract, if the statute of fraud defense applies, you do not have to complete the contract. This defense may apply if you can’t complete the contract within a year.
Other defenses include, but are not limited to:
- Unilateral Or Mutual Mistake
- Fraud Or Misrepresentation
- Frustration Of Purpose
Florida General Contractor Lawyers
Thus far, we’ve talked about what you can do if a property owner accuses you of negligence or breach of contract. But what if you want to sue for damages? Although general contractors are typically on the other end of lawsuits, this doesn’t mean that you don’t have rights. You may recover damages, as well. For example, you can sue for payment if the property owner doesn’t pay you in full. But seeking recovery is difficult. Knowing your recovery options might be more difficult, so it is wisest to seek legal counsel from experienced Florida general contractor attorneys. That’s where we come in. To speak with one of our experienced attorneys, call us toll-free at 877.556.2889 or contact us online for a free consultation.