NBC 6 Responds has been reporting on homeowners who have lost money to fraudulent contractors for years. Now, new changes to state law are aimed at making it easier to track down contractors who take money but don’t get the job.
Homeowners like Robert Haag and Lilly Krause, who told us they handed over lump sums for home improvement, but said the contractor never did the work.
“I’m 78 years old, we have saved money from our social security and the small retirement that I have,” Haag told us in 2018.
Cases like that of Haag have caught the legislature’s attention.
House Bill 7125 came into force in July. Under the new law, if a consumer pays a contractor more than 10 percent of the contract price for a home improvement project, the contractor must apply for approval within 30 days. Once the permits have been issued, work must begin in 90 days.
If not, the consumer can send the contractor a letter of request requesting the start of the work within 30 days. If work does not start 30 days after receiving the letter, the homeowner can file a criminal complaint with the local police.
“Anything we as lawmakers can do to protect our consumers and the most vulnerable citizens, we must do,” said Susan Valdes, a representative for the state of Tampa.
Valdes was a co-sponsor of the bill. She says these changes can make it easier to follow up on such cases.
“The biggest change this law makes is that the judge can decide whether the contractor intended to cheat,” said Valdes.
According to the law, the request letter must contain a language asking the contractor to complete the work or refund the specified money and it must be sent by registered mail.
“Contractors need to be made aware that this is the law,” said Valdes.
This law is not retroactive. This does not apply to homeowners who lost money prior to signing this law.
Contractors found in violation of the law and raised more than $ 1,000 could face criminal charges.