How long does a supplier have to file a lien on property in Florida?

Full Question:

I'm a GC, a sub worked on a project for me, he never told me the backhoe he was using was rented. He has been done for nearly 3 months now. I just got a call from the rental company informing that if they're not paid in full ($5k) they'll take a lien on the property, I certainly don't want that to happen as I'm still working on the project.This sub was looking for an advance from me and told me he has a case being settled anytime now (I have the attorney info). How long does a subcontractor or vendor have to put a proper lien on a property and do I have to pay them. The sub will not return any calls from me or them ... what do I do?
08/26/2011   |   Category: Contractors ยป Construction...   |   State: Florida   |   #25401


Generally, Florida law provides that a contractor, subcontractor or material supplier (“lienor”) who provides labor, work, or materials for the improvement of private real property located within Florida has a lien on that property for the value of the materials, labor, or work provided. Florida Statutes § 713.02 and § 713.06.

However, that lien has to be perfected before it can be enforced. Since the rental company is not in direct contract with the owner of the property, it will have several requirements to satisfy before its right to a construction lien exists.

First, the lienor must serve the owner with a “Notice to Owner.” See Florida Statutes § 713.06(2)(c) and Form FL-03198 . The purpose of the notice to owner is to alert the owner to the lienor’s presence on the job so that the owner can protect himself from the risk of paying over to the contractor monies which ought to go to an unpaid potential lienor who has previously provided work, labor, and/or materials. The owner can eliminate the possibility of paying twice for lienor’s work by requiring a lien waiver (partial or final) ensuring that the money paid the contractor ends up paid to the lienor providing notice. The lienor must serve a notice to owner within the earlier of (1) 45 days of first materials delivered to the project or work performed on the project or (2) before final payment is made by the owner in reliance on the final contractor’s affidavit. See Florida Statutes § 713.06(2)(a) and Form FL-03200. The notice to owner and other required notices under the Florida Construction Lien Law must either be served certified or registered mail return receipt requested or by actual delivery to the person to be served. Fla. Stat. §713.18.

The notice to owner must be sent in the form provided by §713.06(2)(c). A deviation from the statutory form may result in loss of the lienor’s rights. The Owner must be served even if the Owner is in fact aware that the lienor is on the job and providing services and/or materials. If the lienor is not in privity with the general contractor, it must also serve the contractor with the Notice to Owner. See Florida Statutes § 713.06(2)(a). The notice to owner should also be served on any lender identified in the notice of commencement because the lender may be obligated to seek lien waivers from lienors as progress payments are made.

A lienor who fails to recover a timely payment and who has complied with its notice to owner requirements may lien the owner’s property to obtain payment. To do so, the lienor must record a claim of lien in the public records of the county where the property is located within 90 days of the final furnishing of materials, labor, or work or at any time during performance. Florida Statutes § 713.08(5).

The claim of lien must also be in substantially the same form as that provided in §713.08(3). To record the claim of lien, the lien must be prepared, signed and notarized by the lienor and then taken to the clerk of court in the county where the property is located. There it will be recorded in the public records for a nominal fee. Florida Statutes § 713.08(5).

Following recording, the claim of lien should be promptly served by certified mail, return receipt requested, on all of the applicable parties listed in the notice of commencement. If not timely served, “to the extent that the failure or delay is shown to have been prejudicial to any person entitled to rely on the service,” the lien may be void. Florida Statutes §713.08(4)(c). The filing of the claim of lien is not conditioned on the owner filing a Notice of Commencement. Even if the owner fails to file the Notice of Commencement, the lien must be served on the owner at any all available addresses. Florida States § 713.08(4)(c).

After the lien has been recorded, the lienor must commence a court action to foreclose the lien and recover for the work performed within one year from the date the lien is recorded. Florida Statutes § 713.22. The statutory scheme and interplay between F.S. §§713.21 and 713.22 allows an owner to choose a procedure to force a lienor to take action. F.S. §713.21(4) allows the owner or other party of interest to file a complaint and the lienor is required file an action to foreclose a claim of lien or, in the alternative, show cause why the lien should not be discharged within 20 days. F.S. §713.22(2) permits an owner to shorten the one-year period in subsection (1) of the statute down to a period of 60 days by recording a “Notice of Contest of lien” in the clerk’s office. By contesting the lien, the owner forces the lienor to file the action to enforce the lien. See Form FL-03202.