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Dealing With Unresponsive Contractors

Richard Montgomery on

Dear Monty: I live in a condo in Florida. In 2021, I had electric hurricane screens installed that came with a five-year warranty. The screens have never worked properly, and while the company has attempted to resolve the repair, the screens remain inoperable. They have been to my property about 10 times -- and still, inoperable. I have asked them to replace the units or refund the $13,500 to no avail. Do I have any options or recourse?

Monty's Answer: There is a process to follow on dealing with the situation you have at hand. Based on your description of the events, you likely need to consult with an attorney. All attorneys are not created equal; I've written before about some questions to ask your potential attorney in order to select a good one.

Before you contact the attorney, hire an electrical contractor or an established electrician to estimate what they would charge you to get it working. You want a contractor with experience working with electric hurricane screens; find one who can fix it on the first visit or tell you why it is inoperable and how much it would cost to repair. Refrain from using a home inspection company since the equipment you describe would automatically not be covered in a home inspection, and the home inspector would not be qualified to give you an estimated cost. It would be wise to get two opinions from electricians. You will get different responses and pricing from most contractors. I have also written before about picking a contractor.

These estimates represent information an attorney would request to assess how to proceed with your case, so being one step ahead of the curve may reduce the attorney's time and save some cost. You may also want to learn if your contractor is licensed and insured.

In doing some research before responding to your question, I ran across an old article on hurricane screens from 2011 in Window Film Magazine. I suspect many of the issues stated in the article have been resolved. Still, it led me to wonder if companies operate outside Florida's law. Your electricians will know if they are up to code by inspecting your installation. If they are not, your attorney may suggest you contact the district attorney in the municipality where your home is located. If the company you are working with is not licensed, they likely have broken the law. If this is true, it also suggests that you may have difficulty collecting money from them.

 

Every state has unlicensed contractors, but some states have more than others. As a state with a large population, Florida appears to have many unlicensed contractors. A Facebook page with 2,000 Florida members is titled The Good, the Bad, and the Unlicensed. You may find a good electrician here or an electrician to stay away from. Sometimes, a high-quality contractor in one specialty will know high-quality contractors in other specialties. This happens because they cross paths in properties that require multiple subcontractors.

Richard Montgomery is a syndicated columnist, published author, retired real estate executive, serial entrepreneur, and the founder of DearMonty.com and PropBox, Inc. He provides consumers with options to real estate issues. Follow him on Twitter(X) @dearmonty or DearMonty.com.

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