What Are Construction Liens?

What to Know as a Property Owner About Florida's Construction Lien Law

Like other statutes, the construction lien law in the state of Florida is far from simple.  In fact, Florida’s construction lien law has routinely been deemed one of the most difficult to navigate for both homeowners and contractors due to its many time sensitive requirements.  You may have numerous questions pertaining to the law, especially if you’ve been directly impacted as a local homeowner. Here are some common questions and answers about construction liens.

What is construction lien law in general?

Basically, the law allows those who work on your property (contractors, laborers, architects, etc.) that have not been paid in full to enforce their claim for payment against your property.  However, in some circumstances even if you have paid your general contractor, with whom you have a direct with, in full, if he/she has failed to pay their subcontractors or other suppliers of materials, those who are owed money can record a lien against your property and file a lawsuit against you to foreclose on the lien to seek payment as well.

What can happen to my home if a construction lien is placed on it?

If a lien is filed against your home, it acts as a cloud against your title.  This means if you want to sell or refinance your home, you will not be able to unless the lien is paid off or removed.   Also, if a contractor files suit on its construction lien and is successful and you cannot pay the judgment, your home can be foreclosed upon and sold against your will to pay the judgment.   This is true even if you have declared your property your Florida homestead, as construction liens for goods and services which have repaired or improved your real property are one of the exceptions to Florida’s Constitutional homestead protection.  

How can I protect myself and my home from this?

If the cost of your upcoming home improvements is at or above $2,500, each time you make a progress or milestone payment to your contractor you will want to make sure that all subcontractors and material suppliers who have provided labor and materials to your home have been paid for all of their work completed.   The best way to do this is to request that your general contractor provide a Partial Lien Release, up to the date of the payment, not only for all of its work but also from all of the subcontractors that have worked on your property.  Also, if you happen to receive a written “Notice to Owner” from a subcontractor this is not a lien.  However, you will need to ensure that specific contractor who served you with the Notice to Owner has been paid before you make any additional payments to your general contractor or else you could be in jeopardy of paying twice for the same work.  

What to do if a Lien is Placed on your Property?

If you receive notice that a mechanics lien has been recorded against your property, the first thing to do is determine if the lien is enforceable.   Because Florida’s construction liens are a “statutory creature” the lien law must be strictly construed and strict compliance with the statute is an indispensable prerequisite for any person seeking to enforce a recorded mechanics lien.   For example, a contractor must record a lien no later than ninety (90) days after the final furnishing of labor, services or materials at your property.  If a contractor fails to meet this deadline, it will mean their lien, while recorded, cannot be enforced. 

There are also several other time-sensitive deadlines and requirements that a potential lienor must strictly comply with in order to properly record and enforce a mechanics lien, and a failure of any one of those requirements could mean that a recorded lien is invalid or unenforceable or may even become invalid or unenforceable.   Secondarily, if you have a lien recorded against your property and you need to remove the cloud against your title quickly, the statute provides for the ability to purchase a bond or post a cash bond which will take the place of your property as collateral and allow you to sell or refinance your property.  

While this is simply an overview of the Florida construction lien basics, you may require more information about the construction lien law from an experienced construction law attorney. Turn to Fisher Law Office in Fort Myers, FL to get the clarification you need in your specific situation. Attorney Peter M. Fisher has over 8 years of legal experience to help you sort through the complexities of Florida’s Construction Lien Law if a construction lien has been placed on your Florida home. Contact Attorney Fisher today for assistance with your construction lien issue.

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