A construction lien, sometimes called a mechanic lien, is a lien filed against a commercial or residential property by a contractor, subcontractor or supplier who has not been paid in full for work already completed. When there is a lien on a property, it cannot be sold until the lien is paid off. All 50 states have a construction lien law, according to National Lien Law, but they vary dramatically. In Florida, time limits for filing paperwork must be observed for the lien to be valid.
When to File
In Florida a contractor has 90 days from the time he finished the work or last delivered material to file the claim of lien. A copy of the claim of lien must be delivered to the property owner within 15 days of it being filed. The company has one year after filing the claim of lien to file a lawsuit to foreclose on the claim of lien, or 60 days if it files a notice of contest. If a suit is not filed within the time frame the claim of lien may be dismissed by a judge, according to Becker & Poliakoff, Legal and Business Strategists.
Where to File and How Much to File For
Construction claims of lien are filed at the county recorder’s office, if there is one. If there is not, claims of lien are filed at the county’s clerk of the courts office. Claims of lien can be filed for unpaid labor, material and any equipment that was supplied to the job site, but only for the balance left on the contract. Attorney’s fees cannot be added to the lien, but can be recovered later if the judge awards the lien judgment.
Avoiding a Lien
According to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, property owners can avoid liens by obtaining the appropriate paperwork throughout the construction process. That begins with the notice of commencement, which must be filed before construction begins. Property owners need to obtain a release of lien from the contractor before making payments; otherwise the property owner could be liable for payments to subcontractors if the contractor does not pay them. Property owners can also request a list of all subcontractors and suppliers who are part of the project.
To register a complaint against a contractor, or to see if a contractor has complaints against him, contact the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation customer contact center at (850) 487-1395 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also check at the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation website to see if a contractor is licensed to do work in Florida. A construction company must be licensed to be eligible to file a lien in Florida.
- Hard working construction worker at a construction scene. image by Andy Dean from Fotolia.com