‘How could this be allowed’: Homeowners furious over Florida law they say is unfair

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. — Two families in Brevard County claim they paid for new roofs and then faced foreclosure threats because the roofing company didn’t pay its bills.


A Florida law allows suppliers not paid by contractors to place liens against homeowners, who are then forced to pay twice or possibly lose their homes.

“This is the new roof. It’s so beautiful,” Pam Bender said. She’s happy with the way her roof looks but feels double-crossed by the contractor that installed it.

Bender says she paid Ben Kee Construction a total of $34,000 in full.

READ: ‘That’s not good’: Homeowners feel burned by solar power promises

Then months later, she received a notice. The roofing supplier had gone to court and placed a construction lien against her house because it had not been paid for materials used on her home.

Bender said she questioned Ben Kee Construction and heard, “No, no, no, don’t worry about that. Don’t worry about that. We’ve got this covered.”

Two weeks later, she got a letter from the supplier informing her that unless she paid $16,000 for materials a second time, she could face foreclosure.

READ: ‘It’s unimaginable’: Concerns arise after 2 drivers find water in their vehicle’s gas

In Florida, the construction lien law can be a cruel surprise. The law allows suppliers and subcontractors to go after the homeowner if the contractor they hired doesn’t pay their bills.

Harry Watters is another Ben Kee Construction customer who didn’t realize that unless he paid twice, he could lose his home.

“We were in total shock! We played by the rules. How could this be allowed to happen?” Watters said.

READ: Hedge funds vs. homeowners: Entire mobile home parks are being bought by investors

He told Action 9 that he paid for the new roof in full but Ben Kee failed to pay the supplier.

To remove the lien and prevent foreclosure, Watters paid for the supplies a second time. Then he went to court and filed a small claims case, hoping to recover his loss from Ben Kee Construction.

“There need to be protections in place for homeowners,” Watters said.

READ: ‘A whole new level’: Scammers use fake IDs to fraudulently list property for sale online

Ben Kee Construction has an “F” rating at the Better Business Bureau. Other consumer complaints involve liens and suppliers not being paid.

Todd Ulrich went to the company’s office in Merritt Island.

“I’m here about customers who say they had to pay twice for their roof,” Ulrich told the person in the office. “How can that be fair?” he asked.

“I am just working here,” the person replied.

READ: Florida’s failing insurance market contributing to rent crisis

So far, company managers have not responded to Ulrich.

Bender told Action 9 that eventually, Ben Kee Construction did pay $4,000 toward the supply bill but that leaves a balance of $12,000 she would have to pay a second time or face possible foreclosure.

“I mean, pay your bills. I did. I paid you,” Bender said.

The best way to avoid the contractor’s foreclosure threat is to insist on a written waiver of lien from any supplier or subcontractor before you pay.

READ: Homeowners find property falsely listed “for sale” online, again

Click here to download the free WFTV news and weather apps, click here to download the WFTV Now app for your smart TV and click here to stream Channel 9 Eyewitness News live.

Todd Ulrich

Todd Ulrich, WFTV.com

I am WFTV's Action 9 Reporter.