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How Long Does A Contractor Have To Finish A Job In Florida?

Hiring a contractor to work on your home always carries a risk. There's always the chance that they may walk off the job, or worse, choose to never start at all. That's why each state has its own laws on the maximum time a contractor has to finish a job. If you're in Florida, you might be curious to find out how long your contractor has to finish a job. We did the research to bring you the answer.

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Technically, Florida contractors do not have a state-mandated deadline for their work. The work they do has a mandated deadline if and only if there is a "Time is of the Essence" clause in the contract. If work isn't completed by the date set forth in a contract with that clause, homeowners have the right to sue. 

There are a lot of little details that need to be hammered out before you hire a contractor. This article will help you figure out what your rights are. Without further ado, let's get right into it.

Construction of a building with scaffolding surrounded, How Long Does A Contractor Have To Finish A Job In Florida?

How Long Does A Contractor Have To Finish A Job In Florida?

Contrary to popular belief, there is no deadline on any contractor job that happens in Florida unless the contract states so.

Architect checking the construction plan

More importantly, in order for the deadline to be enforceable, Florida requires a "Time is of the Essence" clause in the contract. Otherwise, contractors are not legally required to meet any specific due date during their projects. 

What Is A "Time Is Of The Essence" Clause?

This is a clause that states that your payment hinges on the completion of the project within a certain timeframe that you specify.

It also states that a financial loss would occur if the project is not completed in time and affirms your right to sue for damages. It's a way to signify that the work has to be done and that failure to do it within limits is a breach of contract. 

Your contract's clarity and phrasing are what will save you during a laggy (or even abandoned) project. This is why it is so vital that you read and understand your contract before you sign it. If anything seems vague or incorrect, fix it before you sign it. 

How Do You Avoid Getting A Contractor Who Doesn’t Finish Work On Time?

Project manager and client shaking hands

There's never a guarantee that you will have a contractor that finishes a project on time unless your contract has a "Time Is Of The Essence" clause. Even then, there have been cases where contractors still haven't done the job right. Ideally, you will choose a contractor who has the following traits:

  • Is licensed, bonded, and insured in the state of Florida. If they don't hold a license, then they aren't actually supposed to do work as a contracting company. Many conmen will claim to be licensed but aren't really legally allowed to work in Florida. The best way to handle this is to verify the licensure via Florida's contractor licensing board. 
  • Is willing to go under contract with a "Time Is Of The Essence" clause. A contractor that is unwilling to do so can be a red flag. Talk to a lawyer to make sure that you have the right terms in your contract.
  • Has good reviews online. Does the contractor have an online presence? Are they on Angie or similar sites? If so, that's a "green light." Read their reviews and references to find out if they're the right company for the job. 
  • Actually knows what they are talking about. If the contractor seems dodgy or incompetent to you, then they definitely shouldn't be a part of your plans. For example, if a roofing contractor can't explain your sagging roof, it's a no-go.
  • Offers reasonable quotes. Be wary of contractors that claim they can do a project for far less or way faster than a typical company can. This is a matter of it being "too good to be true." Conmen will be happy to offer you a pie in the sky, simply because they want to get you to agree to pay them before they bail. 
  • Does not ask for all the money upfront. This is a clear indicator that you are probably dealing with a conman, especially if it's a big project. 10 to 30 percent of a down payment is more common. 
  • Does not give off "red flag" behavior. It's true that contractors want to get that signature, but there's a difference between enthusiastic sales and someone who is pressuring you. If you have a sinking feeling in your stomach, you may need to say no to that contract.

Row houses under construction at a residential housing project

What Happens If Your Contractor Doesn't Finish The Project On Time Or On Budget?

This all depends on what your contract says. A properly arranged contract will explain what will happen should a project go off-timeline or off-budget.

Generally speaking, there is not much a homeowner can do if things don't turn out quite as requested. In some cases, the easiest way to handle this is to withhold a portion of the payment as a result of the lateness. 

If you find yourself in a situation where you cannot reach the contractor and it's becoming clear that they won't finish the project, contact a lawyer and file a police report. This could be a potential sign of contractor fraud. 

How Much Time Does A Contractor Have To Start A Project?

Contractor and engineer checking their building project

Believe it or not, the bigger portion of Florida laws regarding contractor timing deals with project beginnings. In other words, you are way more protected regarding project start times than end times. Here's what you need to know:

  • Your contractor must apply for a work permit within 30 days of accepting more than 10 percent down. This is Florida state law.
  • If they take more than 10 percent down, then they also have to start work within 90 days of accepting the deposit. Once again, this is another aspect of Florida law. This is why you should always put more than 10 percent down on a job. It helps give you rights.
  • The only time delays that are legally allowed are when there is a just reason. For example, if a hurricane hits the week of a project start and the house blows away, the contractor won't be held liable. 

What Happens If The Contractor Doesn’t Start In Time?

This typically means that you have the right to contact a lawyer, sue them, and also report them to the Department of Business & Professional Regulation. Since this is a statewide law, you have a lot more protection. This is true even if it is not mentioned in your contract.

Wooden studs and framing of a house under construction

What Should You Do If Your Contractor Doesn’t Finish Your Project On Time?

Obviously, court is one of the easiest ways to recover costs. A lawsuit (or even starting the process of it) will usually set things straight and help you get your money back. Along with reaching out to a lawyer to find out if you have a case to sue the contractor, there are several other things that you can do. These include:

  • Report the contracting company to the Department of Business & Professional Regulation. Florida makes it easy to file a complaint online and via phone. This is also a good choice if your contractor went way over the budget.
  • Report them to the Attorney General. If you have reason to believe that you were a victim of contractor fraud, then you have the right to report them to the Attorney General. 
  • Mention what happened online. The BBB's website is great for this, as is Google Places. If you hired them off a site like Angie, you can also give them a bad review to warn others not to partake in their services. It's worth noting that you should stick to the facts when you write a review. Name-calling and accusing them of things they didn't do can land YOU in hot water instead. 
  • Consider calling your bank. The bank might be able to freeze the check or reverse the funds. It depends on the circumstances as well as whether they actually cashed the check.
  • File a complaint against the contractor's bond. This is why having a bonded contractor is so important. Bonds can help you regain the money you lost when you put your faith in the wrong company.
  • Discuss the matter with a lawyer, especially if you are a landlord. If you are a landlord or real estate investor, a contractor that doesn't do their job can be a serious cause of fiscal loss. This may give you some grounds to sue, even if your contract wasn't well arranged when you first got started.

Final Thoughts

Construction of a building with scaffolding surrounded

Florida is a state where having a rock-solid contract is a must, which is why it makes sense to have a lawyer look it over.

There may not be a maximum time limit on finishing a project by law, but that doesn't mean you can't set your own standard. When in doubt, talk to someone who is seasoned in contract work before you hire anyone in the Sunshine State. It could save you a lot of time, not to mention a lot of sanity.