Florida Homeowners' Construction Recovery Fund reimburses homeowners ripped off by contractors

Florida Homeowners' Construction Recovery Fund reimburses homeowners ripped off by contractors

Hundreds of homeowners ripped off by their contractor have cashed in from an unlikely place -- the State of Florida. The Consumer Watchdog shows you a little known fund of money that you might be able to tap into.

The state will pay you up to $50,000, but getting your money takes some work.

Annie Johnston's backyard is barely touched, even though the plans to build there were sketched years ago.

"I was going to create a great room or living room," Johnston said.

But that dream never became reality.

"There was a point when the phone calls would not get returned," Johnston said.

Johnston's contractor took her deposit of nearly $20,000 without doing the work.

"Probably wish I would have done a little more research on him, but at the time he was highly recommended," Johnston said of her contractor.

It's a common problem for homeowners, but we found there may be a way for you to get reimbursed.

"When you heard there was this pot of money with the state did you think oh no this is too good to be true?" Strathman asked.

"Yeah, like the State of Florida is going to give me money for my mistake. I absolutely did not believe it was true," Johnston said.

The Florida Homeowners Construction Industry Recovery Fundrefunds homeowners who suffer financial damage.

Here are the three big criteria:
-It must be a licensed contractor
-You need a judgment or order of restitution
-You have no other way to collect your money

"You really have to show you are deserving of getting reimbursed," Johnston said.

That's because it's a fund of last resort.

"They wanted to know what assets he had. Were there other ways for me to get reimbursed?" Johnston explained.

It took Johnston months to fill out the paperwork, spending about 50-60 hours on it. Then she waited a year for a decision.

"Some claims were denied. Luckily mine was a pretty clear cut case," Johnston said.

Leading to a payday that allowed Johnston to finally finish some other house projects.

"The fact it wasn't a complete loss for me was monumental," Johnston said.  "I couldn't believe it was over. I was really thrilled. I was glad I persevered."

There are potentially hundreds of other homeowners who may qualify in Palm Beach County too.

We've been following the case of Florida Screenbuilders. The owner, Rene Cantin, was found guilty of fraud in June. The county said he used smaller materials and eliminating other parts weakening the screen enclosures. The county gave Florida Screenbuilders until December to fix the issues.

If that doesn't happen, the county says you should file a claim with the state.

Just remember to follow the fund's strict guidelines.

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