TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — 8 On Your Side recently exposed the plight of three homeowners who lost thousands of dollars to a roofer who never did the work. Now, they have judgments against him but that doesn’t mean they’ll be getting their money back.

Investigator Mahsa Saeidi took a look at their limited options.  

There is a $24 million pot of cash they can access, but it comes with some very specific rules.

First, you have to be a homeowner who’s suffered monetary damages. This has to be as a result of financial mismanagement or misconduct by a licensed contractor and you must’ve exhausted all other avenues of repayment. This is a fund of last resort.

“There’s less than 500 of us statewide,” said attorney Brian Stayton, who is board certified in construction law, and fights to help people with problems after construction projects.

When asked about how often homeowners get into these situations, Sayton said “way more than you would anticipate.”

The $24 million state fund could potentially help. It’s called the Florida Homeowners’ Construction Recovery Fund, and it provides financial assistance to people with these types of issues. The fund is overseen by Melanie Griffin, Secretary of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.

If you lost money due to the mismanagement or misconduct of a licensed contractor, you may be eligible.

“In order to apply to the fund, you have to go all the way through a trial or somehow get a judgment against the contractor,” said Mr. Stayton.

You can get a judgment in court. Alternatively, you can be awarded restitution by the Construction Industry Licensing Board or during arbitration.

“You really need to make sure that your claim is properly pleaded, you have to write it so that you can come within the coverage limitations of the fund,” said Mr. Stayton.

Even if you jump through all those hoops, it doesn’t mean you’re going to get all of your money back. According to Mr. Stayton, there’s a limit to how much you can retrieve. For a general contractor, it’s up to $25,000.   For plumber, roofer, or AC contractor, it’s $15,000 max.

“Submit your paperwork and cross your fingers,” said Mr. Stayton. “It’s a crapshoot.”

So, how often do people get paid? According to DBPR, during the 2021-2022 fiscal year, the fund awarded more than $2.7 million to homeowners. It was much more the following year when homeowners got nearly $4.5 million.

There is a time limit to apply. For more information, head to this DBPR website.