Our firm sees a lot of Florida contractor breach of contract cases. Most start with bad contracts. A contract that lacks a “Time is of the Essence” clause is typically a bad contract. Without one of these clauses, the contractor doesn’t actually have to finish the job on the “agreed” deadline.
Contractors know this. So don’t leave a contractor laughing behind your back, knowing they can take their sweet time finishing the job for you. Get an experienced contract attorney or business attorney to draft the right contract to ensure the contractor gives you what you expect.
Imagine you enter a services contract with a licensed Florida contractor. The contractor agrees to do home renovations on your real estate, including tiling your kitchen and installing a new shower in your master bedroom. The contractor agrees to complete the job within 6 months. You agree to pay $50,000 at the end of the job (including labor and materials).
Is the contractor liable for a breach of contract if 6 months rolls around, and your kitchen floor is still un-tiled and the master shower is not replaced?
It depends. What is in your contract? How much of your verbal agreement was reduced to writing? Did you include a “Time is of the Essence” clause?
A Time is of the Essence clause is necessary if you want to enforce a deadline.
The contract should state that an express condition of your payment is that the job must be completed by a certain deadline. The date should be expressly stated in the contract. Then, if the contractor fails to complete the work by the stated deadline, then that failure likely constitutes a material breach.
A material breach opens to the door to many potential remedies for you. For example, you may be entitled to hire another contractor to complete the work and reduce payment to the original contractor accordingly. You may also be able to sue the original contractor for consequential damages, like any foreseeable loss of income or additional expenses incurred as a result of the breach.
In our example, assume the contract did not contain a “Time is of the Essence” provision. Unfortunately, the contractor likely won’t be liable for a material breach just for failing to complete the job on time. How can this be?
Well, failing to finish on time is still considered a “breach” by law. Though it’s likely only a minor breach (that is, a technical breach), which does not open the door to many, if any, remedies for you. So, even with a minor breach you would still have to pay the contractor. Don’t get stuck in such a frustrating situation!
If you’re having any problems with a Florida contractor, or have any questions about a contract, call one of our experienced Florida contract attorneys today to discuss your particular situation and what remedies may be available to you.