When contractors are hired to perform improvements on properties, they expect to be paid. The same goes for subcontractors. If the property owner is dissatisfied with the work done by the contractor, refusing to pay the bill is not the solution. Ideally, the property owner should approach the contractor about the service quality, and both parties should come to an agreement about how best to remedy the issue. If this fails to happen, both contractors and subcontractors have the right to place a lien against the property under Florida law for the amounts due and owing.
When placing a lien on a property, keep the following timelines in mind:
Notice of Commencement
Timeliness is not only imperative when placing a lien against a property, but it is imperative when beginning construction work as a contractor. According to Florida Statute § 713.135, an owner should (but is not required to) record a Notice of Commencement. If recorded, construction must be commenced within 90 days. The notice is effective for one year unless otherwise stated. By recording such a notice, the owner can require the general contractor to supply releases of lien from all persons that have served a Notice to Owner.
Notice to Owner
For subcontractors not in privity of contract with the owner, filing a Notice to Owner will protect their lien rights. According to Florida Statute § 713.06(2)(a), the Notice to Owner must be served on the owner before commencing, or not later than 45 days after commencing, to furnish his or her labor, services, or materials to the project. The Notice to Owner places the owner on notice that a subcontractor who does not have a direct contract with the owner and, instead, has a contract with the general contractor for the property, can lien the owner’s property for any money that is owed to the subcontractor for the labor, services and/or materials furnished thereon. Failure to provide a Notice to Owner will preclude the lienor from placing a lien on the owner’s property. If a Notice to Owner has not been furnished to the owner or if it was served in excess of 45 days from the date a lienor first furnished labor and material to the project, then the subsequent recording of a Claim of Lien may be subject to attack.
When Must the Claim of Lien Be Served on the Owner?
Florida Statute § 713.08(4)(c) states that a copy of the Claim of Lien must be served on the owner within 15 days from the date it is recorded. An owner can serve a lienor with a Demand for Sworn Statement of Account, thereby requiring the lienor to provide a sworn statement as to the following:
- The nature of labor and services performed;
- The nature of labor and service to be performed;
- A description of materials furnished;
- The amount paid on account to date;
- The amount due; and
- The amount to become due.
In addition to keeping the above timelines in mind when pursuing a lien, lienors must also comply with other intricate and detailed legal requirements. Because there is so much at stake during such a process, having experienced construction law counsel like the attorneys at Haber Law representing you is essential for ensuring a smooth and seamless process. Contact one of our construction attorneys for more information.
Frank Soto is a partner with the Miami law firm of Haber Law. He heads the firm’s Construction Law Department. He concentrates his practice in the areas of construction litigation and real estate litigation. Mr. Soto has represented owners, contractors, sub-contractors, mortgage lenders, and other financial institutions in various construction and breach of contract disputes in State and Federal Courts throughout the State of Florida.
Katrina Sosa concentrates her practice in the areas of complex business law and litigation, condominium association law and construction law. She has worked on both litigation and transactional matters. Ms. Sosa has worked on various phases of construction defect litigation ranging from the inception of the case to preparing for trial. On the transactional side, she has worked on a shareholder buyout for a local food company as well as real estate acquisitions.