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?

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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

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 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.


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