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Serving a Notice to Owner in Florida: A Step-by-Step Guide

Serving a Notice to Owner in Florida: A Step-by-Step Guide

August 27, 2019

The Notice to Owner (NTO) is one of the most important pre-lien notices in Florida. Like most pre-lien notices, this document secures and protects your right to file a mechanics lien should a payment issue arise as you provide your services to a project.

This step-by-step guide will walk you through the process of properly serving your Notice to Owner, from finding the required information to avoiding the most common mistakes contractors and suppliers make in fulfilling the NTO requirement.

What is the Florida Notice to Owner?

The Notice to Owner is a preliminary notice in Florida, which means that it is a document that must be sent early in the project.

The purpose of serving the Notice to Owner is to inform the property owners and other relevant parties about your participation in the project. The Notice to Owner also lets them know that you are willing to exercise your lien rights should you not get paid for your services.

Think of the Notice to Owner as a proactive way of preserving your lien rights, which is also a good opportunity to open communication lines with the stakeholders up in the contracting chain.

Who needs to serve a Notice to Owner in Florida?

All construction participants that are not in direct contact with the property owner must serve a Notice to Owner. If you are a contractor, subcontractor, or material supplier working under a general contractor, you must submit a Notice to Owner.

Are there any parties exempted from filing a Notice to Owner in Florida?

Yes. These parties are NOT required by law to send a Notice to Owner:

  • General contractors who are in direct contact with the property owner
  • Individual laborers and design professionals
  • Project participants in “subdivision improvements” (as defined in Florida Statutes 713.04)

How to Properly Serve a Notice to Owner in Florida

If you are one of the construction participants who are required to send a Notice to Owner, you must follow these three basic steps:

  • Gather the required information
  • Prepare the Notice to Owner document
  • Serve the Notice to Owner

Gather the required information

A Notice to Owner in Florida must contain specific information for it to be considered valid. These are the pieces of information that you must include in your Notice to Owner:

  • Owner’s name and address

This pertains to the name and address of the property owner. If there are multiple property owners, it is best practice to send a Notice to Owner to each one of them.

  • General description of services or materials

This is a general statement of the type of service that you are providing to the project.

  • Property description that is sufficient for identification

This is a description of the property, which you should be able to find in the Notice of Commencement posted on the job site or in the building permit.

  • Lienor’s name and address

This is your name and address.

Notice of Commencement Florida

Prepare the Notice to Owner document

Once you have all the information ready, you must now prepare the document itself. Note that the Florida Statutes recommend the Notice to Owner to be substantially similar to a specific format and to contain specific paragraphs.

How to prepare the Florida Notice to Owner form

Below is the Notice to Owner form per Section 713.06(c) in Florida’s state laws. Note that the law requires the Notice to Owner to contain a specific warning message:

How to prepare the Florida Notice to Owner form

The Notice to Owner in Florida must preferably be in the form above, although this is not a hard-and-fast requirement. You may add more details and tweak the formatting, but the warning message must be included. Under no circumstances must you fail to include the warning.

Must I prepare different notices for a project that spans multiple lots?

The answer to this question depends on how many contracts and owners are involved. In general, if you are working on a project that covers multiple lots and separate tracts of land, you may serve a single Notice to Owner if a) there is only one contract under which you are providing service, and b) there is only one owner of the property.

Real estate property developments, for example, typically involve multiple lots of land. As long as your service to these lots are all under the same contract and as long as these lots all belong to the same owner, you only have to prepare one Notice to Owner.

If the ownership of multiple lands is divided across multiple property owners, the safest way to go is to prepare separate Notices to Owner and serve them to each owner accordingly.

The idea is that you should be serving a Notice to Owner for each property against which you may file a mechanics lien. If different owners are tied to multiple properties, even if you are working under one contract, chances are you may have to file multiple mechanics liens.

This implies that in Florida, you are expected to protect your right to file a mechanics lien against each lot that is owned by different parties.

Serve the Notice to Owner

Once you have the Notice to Owner ready, you must then send it to the appropriate parties.

Who should I send the Notice to Owner to?

The suggested form (pictured above) also recommends that you specify the parties on whom you are serving the Notice to Owner. Section 713.06(2) basically states that:

  • A sub-subcontractor or a materialman to a subcontractor must serve a copy of the notice on the contractor
  • A materialman to a sub-subcontractor must serve a copy of the notice to owner on the contractor
  • A materialman to a sub-subcontractor shall serve the Notice to Owner on the subcontractor if the materialman knows the name and address of the subcontractor
  • A construction participant required to submit a Notice to Owner must also serve a copy on the owner’s designated representative who is named in the Notice of Commencement, if applicable

Generally speaking, it is best practice to send it to the property owner(s), the general contractor, the lender (if applicable) and all other parties above you in the contracting chain.

When must the Notice to Owner be served?

The Notice to Owner may be sent before you start working on a project or within 45 days after you begin furnishing labor or materials to the project.

Note that if you are a fabricator of materials, your first day of work starts on the day of fabrication. The materials do not have to be incorporated into the project for your 45-day time frame to begin ticking.

Also note that service of the Notice to Owner is effective at the time of mailing only if the document is sent within 40 days after you begin rendering service to the project (from Section 713.18[2] of the Florida statutes). Otherwise, the Notice to Owner will be considered served at time of receipt.

It is considered best business practice to serve the Notice to Owner as early as possible. If doable, you must serve the Notice to Owner even before you begin working on a project. Preparing the Notice to Owner right before the deadline may cause compliance issues, which may be fatal to your lien rights.

How should the Notice to Owner be served?

The Notice to Owner may be served by personal delivery or by registered, Global Express Guaranteed, or certified mail, with postage prepaid. Ensure that you keep a documentation or proof that you have mailed your notice and that it has been received.

Remember to send a Notice to Owner to each property owner in a project, especially if the project covers multiple parcels and lots that are owned by different parties. Keep in mind that you are sending a Notice to Owner to protect your lien rights, so you must send a notice to each property owner that may potentially receive your mechanics lien claim.

3 Common Mistakes When Preparing and Serving the Florida Notice to Owner

1. Missing the deadline

This is the most dangerous mistake anyone can make regarding the Notice to Owner in Florida. The state does not tolerate late service of the Notice to Owner, which means that you must not wait until the last minute to serve this notice.

Keep in mind that the Notice to Owner may be submitted even before you start working on a project. It is best practice to send the Notice to Owner as early as possible.

2. Not including the required warning in the document

The warning message must appear in your Notice to Owner. You may be liberal with formatting and including more information than necessary, but do not drop any of the information that the state laws require you to provide.

Required Information in the Florida Notice to Owner:

  • Owner’s name and address
  • General description of services or materials
  • Property description that is sufficient for identification
  • Lienor’s name and address
  • Warning message

Florida Notice to Owner requirements

3. Failing to serve on the appropriate parties

Although this mistake may not necessarily be fatal to your mechanics lien rights, committing it may lead you to go through issues that you could otherwise avoid.

The Notice to Owner is a good way to keep you in the loop among the top-tier parties in the contracting chain. Sometimes property owners and lenders are proactive in ensuring that all parties get paid, so the Notice to Owner could get you paid without having to go through a mechanics lien.

Keep in mind, however, that the Notice to Owner is not equivalent to a mechanics lien. This document will not encumber a property since it is not something that you file or record in a county clerk’s office. Filing the mechanics lien will still be your best tool when payment disputes occur.

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