In a civil suit, can I get my deposit money back from a contractor who couldn’t complete the job that he was hired for?

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2022

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In a civil suit, can I get my deposit money back from a contractor who couldn’t complete the job that he was hired for?

I paid who I thought was an legitimate contractor but he couldn’t do the job after I had given him a $3500 deposit. He said that he’d return my money but obviously he hasn’t to this point, weeks later. Also,. he’s not responding to call or texts.

Asked on December 9, 2017 under Business Law, Florida


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

Yes, if he did not do the work you paid him for, you can sue him to get your deposit back. You would sue based on all the following grounds (different alternative reasons why he must return the money--he will fall under one or more of them, so you bring your lawsuit based on all these reasons to maximize the chance of winning):
1) Breach of contract--violating his agreement as to what he would do.
2) Fraud--lying about what he could or would do, to get you to sign up with him.
3) Theft by deception--stealing from you by trickery.
Bear in mind that if he does not have money or does not have assets you can find and identify (e.g. does not own real estate; doesn't keep money in the bank) and doesn't have some regular income stream (e.g. doesn't have a job working for somoeone else for a salary or wages, but just does odd jobs on a cash basis) it can be very difficult to collect. People with irregular or "under the table" sources of income and who don't have valuable assets like homes, etc. can easily hide their money from collections efforts, if they don't care about their credit history showing that they defaulted on (failed to pay) a court judgment. Depending on his finances, etc., you could sue him, win, and still fail to get your money back.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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