Construction has long been a backbone of the American economy. Unfortunately, it is fraught with not only hazards to its workers, but legal idiosyncrasies that may threaten the health of your company or property. Block & Scarpa regularly counsels several clients through legal issues within the construction industry, including the enforcement and filing of constructions liens.
What is a Construction Lien?
A construction lien is a legal claim made by a construction or supply company that has provided work on a property. Liens of any kind are used to provide a financial guarantee to an underlying obligation. If a contractor provides services on a property under contract, the property owner cannot simply refuse to compensate said contractor by filing a claim for subpar service. This is due to the contractor being unable to retrieve the labor, material and services provided in lieu of refused payment. Each state may have unique qualifiers for their mechanic’s lien law.
Who Can File a Construction Lien?
Construction liens may be filed in Florida by contractors, subcontractors, sub-subcontractors, some design professionals, including architects and material suppliers, and laborers. However, a company that supplies material to another material supplier does not qualify.
To qualify, a written or verbal contract to provide supplies or services must be in place with the property owner. A lien claim cannot be filed past 90 days of the date work was last performed on the project.
Pre-lien notices may be required, depending on the claimant. This especially applies to subcontractors, laborers and suppliers without direct contact with the owner. Pre-lien notices to the owner must be delivered within 45 days of commencing work or services, or be delivered prior to a contractor providing an affidavit which states that all possible lien claimants have been compensated. For specific details, we advise contacting Block & Scarpa’s office immediately.
Protection for Property Owners Regarding Construction Liens
Florida law states that those that provide work or materials on your property have a right to enforce a claim against your property for payment. This includes when you have paid your contractor in full, but they have not fulfilled payment to any subcontractors, laborers or materialmen.
If you have paid more than $2,500 for improvements while hiring a contractor, consider the following protections for yourself.
- If you fear your contractor will fail to pay his suppliers and/or workers, seek a Release of Lien, which will abdicate your property from a lien threat. This waiver needs to be acquired prior to work or supply delivery occurring on your property.
- Request a list of all subcontractors and suppliers from your contractor via certified or registered mail.
- File a Notice of Commencement with the Clerk of the Circuit Court prior to any work being done on your property. A certified form of this notice should be posted at the job site as proof the notice has been recorded.
If you need to file a claim against a construction lien or to protect yourself, Block & Scarpa will be able to fully assist you in the process. Learn more about construction lien laws in Florida and the services provided by Block & Scarpa by calling 772-794-1918.