Q. We purchased a home last year in Florida. We were misinformed or misled as to the depth of the river that runs alongside the property to get out into open waters. We put five thousand dollars down on this home, which was built for us.

We wrote to the seller and he will not refund our money. The contract states that the deposit money is non-refundable. I placed the deposit on my credit card and the credit card company says we can’t get our money back.

We are retired and do not have this kind of money to throw away. How can we get our money back?

A: The short answer to your question is that you will probably have to sue the seller in order to have a chance at getting your money back.

Unfortunately, you left out a critical piece of information: Was the depth of the river a selling point (perhaps the selling point) of the home. If you can’t have access because the river isn’t deep enough, but the lot was sold as being able to accommodate a boat, you may have a claim for misrepresentation and be able to force the seller to rescind the contract. Then, you could get your money back.

Florida has a number of consumer protection statutes and an attorney should be able to advise you as to what your rights are under Florida law.

With respect to your credit card company’s statement that you cannot get your cash back, they are probably right. The dispute is between you and the seller is based on an interpretation of the contract.

Make sure you have, and keep, all the documentation that the seller used to market the home. It would be helpful to your case to have some documentation that supports your case that the house had proper access to the river. If the seller lied to you to induce you to buy the home, you should be able to terminate the contract and get your money back.

Make sure you discuss your case with an attorney that has experience with contract disputes and has litigated matters in this area before.

Published: Aug 20, 2004