Important Contract Provisions For Residential Roofing Contractors In Florida

Important Contract Provisions For Residential Roofing Contractors In Florida

By Adam B. Edgecombe September 12, 2023 Posted in Construction Law

It is an unfortunate reality of the roofing industry in Florida that, whether performing commercial or residential work, a roofing contractor will inevitably come into conflict with one of its customers.  Whether that conflict can be resolved without litigation, and in the contractor’s favor, usually comes down to the wording of the parties’ contract and whether the contract was professionally drafted and prepared.  When it comes to residential roofing contractors, there are a few key clauses that can ensure a successful project from both a construction and a business standpoint, especially on projects that are being paid by the homeowner’s insurer.

Good Faith Estimate

On roofing projects covered by homeowners insurance, Florida Statute § 489.147(2)(e) requires the roofing contractor to provide the homeowner with a good faith estimate of the price of the contractor’s work.  The statute further states that the actual cost may fluctuate from the price quoted.

While the statute may specifically state that the good faith estimate is just that— an estimate— and may vary from the actual price, homeowners sometimes do not appreciate or understand this fact.  Therefore, how a roofing contractor words its contract with respect to the good faith estimate can make the difference between a homeowner happily and willingly paying for a successful job and a homeowner holding onto her insurance check and refusing to pay because she doesn’t believe you are entitled to the full amount of the check.

Payment for Pre-Construction Work

When handling projects that will be paid by insurance, contractors know their office staff is likely to spend substantial time estimating the cost of the project and negotiating with the adjuster to reach a final scope of work and price.  However, when a homeowner cancels the contract prior to the start of construction work, it can be difficult for the contractor to ensure they are paid for the time spent by their staff working on the insurance claim and other work that goes into estimating and preparing for a roof replacement.

But, if the contractor has a properly drafted contract, it will be able to claim payment for its’ staff’s pre-construction work as liquidated damages.  However, if the contract is not properly drafted, it may be construed as a penalty against the customer and leave the contractor without means for obtaining payment.

Replacement of Rotten Wood

For roofing contractors, the replacement of rotten wood, and getting paid the fair cost for addressing the replacement of that rotten wood, is ripe for conflict.  Further, the Florida Building Code requires that the contract must replace any rotten wood discovered when performing a roof replacement, so ensuring payment for this work is especially important.

Again, a clearly worded and properly drafted contract will protect the roofing contractor when a homeowner disputes the cost of replacing rotten wood.

When Only One Spouse Signs the Contract

Florida Statute § 713.12 states that, when a property is owned by spouses who are not separated, and only one of them signs the contract for repairs, the non-signing spouse’s ownership interest is still subject to the contractor’s claim of lien.   This is very important because, if a contractor doesn’t get paid for its work and must unfortunately foreclose its claim of lien, the contractor will own the property outright, rather than as a joint owner with the non-signing spouse.

While the non-signing spouse’s interest will always be subject to the contractor’s lien, regardless of what the contract says, a properly and clearly worded contract can help avoid expensive and time-consuming litigation over this small but important issue.

In conclusion, a well-drafted contract can dramatically improve a contractor’s business, not just from an accounts receivable perspective; a clearly worded contract that avoids heavy usage of formal and complicated legal terms will also help avoid conflicts with customers.  While there are certainly more important terms and conditions to consider in a roofing contract, the above provisions should be included in every roofer’s contract.

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