PB Co. halts screen contractor's business

Posted at 5:20 PM, Jan 14, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-14 19:21:47-05

A South Florida contractor is stopped from doing business in Palm Beach County seven months after he was found guilty of fraud and building code violations.

The Consumer Watchdog first exposed the problems with Florida Screen Builders last March.

The county feels hundreds of screen patios may not withstand as strong of winds as expected.

The contractor, Rene Cantin, feels the structures are still safe and says there are only paperwork issues. The county gave Cantin time to fix the paperwork problems, but he didn't meet the December deadline.

"Because of the bad publicity with this case, I filed for bankruptcy," Cantin said at a hearing Thursday before the Local Construction Regulation Board.

He said the bankruptcy case froze his assets so he didn't have any money to fix the problem. Cantin said now his assets have been released and he is ready to fix the problem.

The Construction Board told him it's too late and decided to revoke Cantin's license. He will be permanently barred from pulling new permits in Palm Beach County.

"Thankfully it's quite unique," explained Rebecca Caldwell.

Caldwell is the Executive Director of the Palm Beach County Planning, Zoning and Building Department. Her department pushed for the permanent revocation of Cantin's license hoping it will help consumers get action from the state.

"I would like to see restitution to those harmed by Mr. Cantin," said Caldwell. "And prevent him from ever doing this sort of thing again."

Florida has a Construction Recovery Fund that allows you to collect up to $50,000 if you meet certain requirements.

It's a fund of last resort so you need to have hired a licensed contractor, have received a judgment or order of restitution, and have no other way to collect money.

Palm Beach County hopes their decision counts as the judgment needed for homeowners.

Cantin didn't have much to say after the hearing other than to call the decision "nonsense."

It's not just the hundreds of homeowners with problem permits who may file a claim.

"He knew there were issues and took our money anyway," said customer Jana Gillette.

She gave Cantin a deposit, but says he never started work on her home.

"I hope he realizes what he's done to people and that it's not fair to do business like this," Gillette said.

Cantin did work with other contractors in town to finish some jobs.

He can still work in other counties. That's why Palm Beach is hopeful the state will take action.

Palm Beach County Building officials can answer questions for impacted homeowners.

You can also file a claim with the Department of Business and Professional Regulation and the Florida Construction Recovery Fund.

There is no guarantee the fund will pay the claims, but the county is hopeful that will happen.

Related links:

File a complaint with the Department of Business & Professional Regulation

Construction Recovery Fund

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