You know that your interests as a general contractor are protected by the primary contract covering the Florida construction project, but the situation is very different when you are in the position of a subcontractor. Suppliers, laborers, and other lower-tier companies are not in “privity” with the property owner, i.e., there is no direct contractual relationship between them. Under the circumstances, a subcontractor could have difficulties collecting payment from a party up the ladder. The Florida Construction Liens statute was enacted to avoid this situation. By preparing, serving, and filing the proper documents, you gain considerable leverage in getting paid on time.
However, the legal requirements are very strict when it comes to enforcing a construction lien, also known as a mechanics lien. If you do not follow the rules to the letter, you could forego important rights. Though you should trust a Clearwater construction contracts attorney for help, an overview of the steps for enforcing a construction lien is helpful.
- Securing Construction Lien Rights: The first step is to prepare the mechanics lien documents, ensuring you comply with the statute. Initially, keep in mind the most important requirement is triggered early on. Subcontractors are required to provide a Notice to Owner within 45 days after beginning work or supplying materials. This task is to preserve your rights if you have problems with payment down the road.
If you are in a nonpayment situation, you will need to prepare a mechanics lien form stating:
- Contact information for your company and the party that hired you;
- Specifics on the labor, materials, or services you were contracted to provide for the project;
- A description of the property and official owner of record;
- The amount of your lien for unpaid labor or materials.
Note that the construction lien must be signed and notarized to be effective. It must also contain the required statutory language that warns the property owner that a lien has been placed on the property.
- Recording a Construction Lien: After preparing the proper form and including all essential details, you must record it with the Pinellas County Clerk of Court – or other equivalent office in the county where the property is located. You will also need to send a copy of the lien to the property owner, which you can do before you record the documents; you have 15 days after recording to forward the information.
- Enforcing a Florida Construction Lien: Your mechanics lien is only valid for one year after the date it was recorded, so you will need to take action within this timeframe to get paid. Assuming you met all requirements, your lien transitions into a judgment lien – which you can foreclose upon to get the money you are owed.
Contact a Clearwater, FL Contract Law Attorney for Details
These steps to foreclosing on a construction lien are critical, but keep in mind that subcontractors still have traditional breach of contract remedies for getting paid. For more information, please call Clearwater Business Law to schedule a consultation with a contract law and business litigation lawyer. Construction contractors in Pinellas County can call (727) 785-5100 to reach our offices.