While construction liens offer contractors the opportunity to ensure that property owners pay for labor and materials, enforcing a construction lien requires careful drafting and strict compliance with a long list of statutory rules and requirements. With even simple mistakes having the potential to extinguish contractors’ lien rights, all contractors should take appropriate steps to ensure that their lien documentation and enforcement practices comply with Florida law.
The following is a brief overview of the basic steps involved in enforcing a construction lien in Florida:
1. Lien Claims, Defects, and Amendments
While Florida’s Construction Lien Law provides critical protections for contractors, it also seeks to ensure that property owners will not be unfairly prejudiced by errors in their contractors’ lien documentation. As a result, the law has a certain amount of tolerance for defective lien claims that do not “adversely affect” owners, and it allows contractors to amend deficient lien claims under limited circumstances where an amendment is needed to add or remove information or correct a discrepancy.
Even so, contractors should always seek to ensure that their lien claims are as accurate and complete as possible. Defect disputes can delay enforcement, and the correction of certain defects is subject to the discretion of the court (while other defects can prevent enforcement entirely).
2. Lien Notice to Property Owners
Under Florida’s Construction Lien Law, contractors have an obligation to provide notice to property owners in order to perfect their lien rights (with limited exceptions). When performing pursuant to a written contract, contractors must provide a written notice to the property owner, and this notice must appear either (i) on the first page of the contract, or (ii) on a separate page that is separately dated and signed by the owner.
3. Final Payment Affidavit
After providing the requisite notice, a contractor must then provide the property owner with a final payment affidavit. The required language for this document appears in Section 713.06(3)(d) of the Construction Lien Law.
4. Recording the Lien
The final step in perfecting a contractor’s construction lien rights involves recording the lien. The requirements for recording appear in Section 713.08. In Florida, a contractor may record its lien at any time during construction or within 90 days of the date of “final furnishing” or labor and material.
5. Foreclosing on the Lien
Once a construction lien has been properly recorded, then it can be enforced. This is done through the process of foreclosure. Contractors in Florida generally have one year from the date of recording to initiate a foreclosure action. However, there are exceptions, and the window for filing can be reduced to as little as 60 days if the property owner properly records and serves a notice of lien contest.
Ansbacher Law | St. Augustine Construction Lawyers
The construction lawyers at Ansbacher Law provide experienced legal representation for contractors in Northeast Florida. If you would like more information about the steps involved in perfecting or enforcing a construction lien, you can call 904-513-2562 or contact us online to schedule an initial consultation.