For years, NBC 6 Responds has reported about homeowners who have lost money to rogue contractors. Now new changes to state law aim to make it easier to prosecute contractors who take money but don't do the work.
Homeowners like Robert Haag and Lilly Krause who told us they handed over lump sums for home improvement work but say the contractor never did the work.
"I am 78, we saved money out of our social security and the little retirement I have," Haag told us back in 2018.
Cases like Haag's have caught the attention of state lawmakers.
House Bill 7125 went into effect in July. Under the new law, if a consumer pays a contractor more than 10 percent of the contract price for a home improvement project, the contractor must apply for permits within 30 days. Once permits are issued, work must begin in 90 days.
If not, the consumer can send a demand letter to the contractor asking for work to start within 30 days. If work does not begin 30 days after the letter was received, then the homeowner can file a criminal complaint with their local police.
"Everything that we can do as state legislators to protect our consumers and out most vulnerable citizens we must do that," said Susan Valdes, a state representative from Tampa.
Valdes co-sponsored the bill. She says these changes can make it easier to prosecute these types of cases.
"The biggest change that this law does is it gives the judge a way to rule the contractor had intent to defraud," Valdes said.
Under the law, the demand letter must include language asking the contractor to complete work or refund the money given and it must be sent via certified mail.
"Contractors need to be put on alert that this is the law," Valdes said.
This law is not retroactive. It does not apply to homeowners who lost money before this bill was signed into law.
Contractors found violating the law and have taken more than $1,000 could face felony charges.